When it comes to being happy and productive at work, above all else, employees need to feel empowered, experts say.
Empowerment in the workplace involves understanding your company's objectives and having faith in your contributions to them, according to career authorities.
It is having the confidence to "take control over your projects and your career path," said Donna Levin, vice president of workplace solutions at Care.com, an online marketplace for caregiving professionals. "Empowerment is the knowledge that your team trusts you to deliver results, to share feedback openly and contribute to the big-picture goal."
This encourages employees to push themselves and take risks, she said.
"An empowered employee can drive results by having the confidence to make a decision and stand behind it," Levin added.
Laszlo Bock, senior vice president of people operations at Google and author of "Work Rules!: Insights from Inside Google That Will Transform How You Live and Lead," said there are a few things that the search engine giant does to make its employees feel autonomous.
One is offering transparency into the company's operations.
Every few months, the company's chairman, Eric Schmidt, holds a meeting with all of Google's 55,000 employees and shares confidential information such as areas the company is making and losing money and insights into new products.
The benefit of everyone knowing what's going on is that "you don't have to manage people that tightly because everyone knows which direction they should be going in," Bock said.
Google also gives its employees a voice, he said. Once a week, CEO Larry Page and Sergey Brin, director of special projects, have a half-hour meeting in which employees can ask any question or give any suggestion they want.
"If you're here, you should not be thinking like an employee, you should be thinking like an owner," Bock said of Google. "The sum of everybody is way better than any single person."
To translate Google's practices to smaller companies, Levin said managers need to recognize their employees' work and show them how it is integral to their overall mission. The way to do this, she said, is to trust their judgment and support their choices.
"Involving employees in important projects and challenging them to push themselves helps build empowerment and the sense that everyone is working toward a common goal," she said.
But it's not all up to managers, Bock said. Coworkers need to build each other up, too.
He encouraged employees to collaborate on ideas and compare notes about what they think could be done differently in their workplace, and then explain those suggestions to a supportive manager.
Working together builds empowerment, he said.
"Find out what each one of you is fabulous at and learn from each other in every little thing," Bock advised. "Look for meaning in your work and mentally focus on the things that make you happier."