Jayne Burns didn’t always plan on working past 100. 

But most mornings, she drives herself 20 minutes from her house in Cincinnati to Mason, Ohio to clock into her shift as a part-time fabric cutter at Joann Fabric and Crafts store. 

She’s been working at the store for 26 years — and it’s still one of her favorite ways to spend time. “I enjoy what I do, so I want to keep doing it,” she says. “I’ll work for as long as I can or as long as they’ll have me.”

Burns, who turns 101 on July 26, began working at the craft store in 1997, just a few months after her husband Dick died. Her daughter, Donna Burns, was working at the store part-time and recommended her for the role, thinking it might be a welcome distraction from the grief.

The centenarian, who was a bookkeeper for most of her career, tried retiring several times throughout her 70s and 80s, but would “unretire” just a few months later because she missed the routine and lunches with her co-workers. 

“I enjoy talking to everybody I work with, and meeting the customers who are very nice,” she says, “even if some of them are surprised to see me at the cutting table.”

Ultimately, there’s no secret to living a longer, happier life, says Burns, but “working has helped.”

Her No. 1 piece of career advice 

Throughout her decades-long career, Burns has learned that there’s one trait all of the “best jobs” have in common: nice co-workers. 

“It’s important to find people who are friendly and kind,” she says.

At Joann’s, Burns has struck up close friendships with some of her co-workers, including Maggie HusVar, a rising senior at Thomas More University, who introduced her to TikTok during a coffee break. 

The pair have made several TikToks together, dancing in the store’s breakroom and chatting about some of Burns’ favorite memories (like how she met her husband) at the check-out counter. One of the videos has over nine million views.

Last summer, her co-workers surprised her with a birthday party to celebrate turning 100. 

Having good working relationships doesn’t just make your job more enjoyable — it can also make time go by faster, which according to Burns, might help you live longer.

“Staying busy keeps you from focusing on your aches and pains,” she says. “It makes it easier to keep going.”

A Harvard-backed hack for being happier at work

Burns’ career advice is supported by an 85-year study from Harvard researchers, which found that positive relationships are what keep people happy throughout their lives. 

This applies to our jobs, too: The study found that the unhappiest jobs tend to be the loneliest, and involve more independent work than interpersonal relationships or require overnight shifts, such as truck driving and night security.

“Positive relationships at work lead to lower stress levels, healthier workers, and fewer days when we come home upset,” two of the researchers, Robert Waldinger, MD, and Marc Schulz, PhD, write in their book “The Good Life.” “They also, simply, make us happier.”

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