At the start of a new year, most of us have some kind of stab at being a better person. Fitter, healthier, calmer, stronger, richer (I sound like a Kanye mega mix) – there are endless things we all wish we could become. But one thing we often neglect to think about is our work habits. We might shoot for a new job or a promotion, but forget to make changes to the day-to-day.

Here are 6 New Year’s resolutions to make at work, that’ll make you more assertive, more skilled and more prepared for your next move.

1. Stop apologising for sick days

“Hi um really sorry but I’m not feeling great, I’ll still log on and do what I can but I might need to possibly maybe take a few hours off so sorry.” 

Sound familiar? Vow to stop apologising for sick days in 2021. This last year has proven one important thing – if you’re sick, you need to stay home and recover. I used to think not apologising for being off sick meant I was rude, but you can be assertive and polite and considerate of the team’s workload at the same time. Plus, if you actually stay off work and get better, you’ll impact your coworkers far less in the long run. One or two days sick is better than 8 days at half capacity! 

Try telling your boss you’ll be taking a sick day, rather than asking. Your language and tone will shift ever so slightly, but it puts you in control and removes that ‘parent and child’ type relationship that we get stuck in sometimes.

2. Note down your skills as you learn

When you start a new job, it’s abundantly clear how new everything feels, and how overwhelming it can be learning new programs, skills and systems. But when we’re doing it day in, day out, it’s easy to forget how much we’ve actually learned.

Keep a record of new systems you’re working with or skills you’re developing, and add them to your CV or LinkedIn profile as you go. It’ll make sure you get the most bang-for-buck out of your experience when you next come to apply for a role.

If doing it in real time is too much, try writing down your work highlight or something new you learned at the end of every week. Make it a ritual at a set time each week, and you’ll soon be in the habit of building up that record. 

3. Call out discrimination

I get it, it’s hard, and speaking up (especially on Zoom!) can feel really, really freaky. But it’s critical that we do. If you see discrimination of any kind, say something. How you go about it is up to you – it doesn’t have to be public or draw attention towards you specifically, but the fact that you’ve raised the behaviour as an issue is the main thing. Whether Derek in accounts made an inappropriate comment about women or a tongue-in-cheek racial slur gets slipped into the morning meeting, make it your mission to say something when you see something.

4. Keep a record of achievements

Achievements, large or small, can often get absorbed up in your day-to-day job without so much as a pat on the back. Toot your own horn and keep a running log of your proudest moments at work. Whether it’s as big as winning an award or winning a new client, or as small as someone loving your work or meeting a really tight deadline, keeping a record of those little moments can help you review how you’re tracking at work, know when it’s time to move on, and even help you beef up your applications for new roles in future. 

5. Ask for a payrise if you believe you’re due one

There’s a grand old assumption in the air at the moment that payrises are a big no no. While some companies have announced pay freezes, many bosses are simply riding the coattails of the pandemic and kicking back in the sweet, sweet silence of their employees feeling too scared to ask. 

If you think you’re due a payrise and actively feel like you’re being taken advantage of by not getting one, still have the conversation. Raising the issue is important, and even if it might not get you the raise on the spot, getting a ‘no’ means you can request a review in 3-6 months as part of your bargaining. During that time, keep a record of the value you’ve added, and present your case demonstrating why you’re worth it.

6. Plan annual leave when it works for you

Annual leave is going to be hot property when we’re allowed to travel again, and so while we might have to be flexible to accommodate everyone’s requests so we’re not leaving offices empty and phones unanswered, still shoot for what you want. Unless you’re genuinely happy to bow out and let others book time off first, put your request in with everyone else’s and see what happens. Stepping back because others might shout louder than you can leave you feeling bitter and scarce about missing out.  

On the same token, don’t let your boss guilt you into not taking leave. 2020 was a rough year, and many of us have worked right through with no break. You’ve earned your leave and you’re entitled to take it!