Do you have fun at work? Do you laugh, do you play together with your coworkers now and again? How does that make you feel? Do you work any better as a result?
In my various businesses, we’ve been known to have a laugh or two, and appreciate that since we all work hard, we might as well enjoy ourselves just as enthusiastically. If you work in an organisation, it is important to make time to have a good laugh and enjoy your coworkers. If you are a freelancer, a sense of humour will get you through some of the more frustrating moments. Humour helps all of us become more fun to work with and more likeable to our coworkers and clients.
For some, work and play are very separate from each other. For others, work and play merge together as a matter of degrees. Is it merely the type of work you do, your lifestyle, or maybe attitude? Can some work be no different than play?
“Find a job you love and you‘ll never work a day in your life” – Confucius
I certainly believe that work can and should be fun. If you are lucky, you will enjoy the people around you and thrive in their company. Humor allows you to release some stress, and to connect with people an emotionally authentic way. Authenticity helps create trust, which can go a long way towards creating a positive working environment. Who doesn’t want that?
Creating and contributing to a positive working place where people are respected, feel safe to try new things, and are valued for the skills and values they contribute is an important part of workplace engagement and overall happiness. These values can and should be a part of any place people are working, no matter what kind of work they are doing.
See what you can do to inject a little more humour into your workplace, and enjoy your day and your work a little bit more every day.
Adjusting to a new culture
When I moved to France earlier this autumn (from the UK, and before that the US), I underestimated the various ways the different culture would affect my ability to ‘get things done’. I had moved to a new country before; I speak a little French; how hard could it be? Even with a great service that has helped us navigate a lot of the hurdles, we still found ourselves at the end of each day exhausted and wanting only to stare blankly into space. Each day, and then each week that passed, we kept thinking it would get easier, and some of it did, but there were always new challenges and we were exhausted by the effort it took to accomplish what seemed like the smallest things.
A psychologist who specialises in expatriation says that moving to another culture sends your brain into a ‘flight or fight’ response since everything is new, and you have to throw out all your preconceived auto-pilot skills to learn to navigate this new landscape. She says every day when you leave your apartment, you are going into battle, with an unknown outcome at every encounter. This heightened awareness of everything takes an enormous amount of physical energy and therefore it is exactly right that we felt exhausted each day.
Now that things have settled a bit, and I am more confident of the outcome each day, I realise that there are many things about moving abroad that are similar to starting at a new organisation or even starting your own business.
When you start working at a new organisation, you will encounter new vocabulary and new processes; also you’ll learn meeting protocols, conversational styles, the dress code, communication channels, and all those myriad unwritten behaviours! Every organisation has their own unique version of these and more, and how well you are integrated into the organisation can have a huge impact on your ability to ‘get things done’. Which of course is all tied up with your own personal sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and well-being. You certainly don’t want to start each day feeling as if you are going into battle!
If you are starting your own business, you can be quickly overwhelmed by the number of things you feel you need to do and to know, and which one to do first. And you will be bombarded with advice and direction, much of which may not be relevant to you, but how do you even begin to sift through all that?! Again, a brand new landscape and fully exhausting.
So what to do? Here are a few tips I learned about moving to a new culture that I think fit really well to adapting to a new job or change in organisation:
Do you have other suggestions?? I’d love to hear them! If you are in charge of on-boarding new employees, what do you do to help your new staff gain confidence and not feel as if they are going into battle each day they come to work? What do you do to ease these transition stages? Let us know in the comments below!
In my second year of University, I joined a supper club in order to try to meet some new people. I joined mid-year, so by then all the table groups had formed, and the only space left was at a table of people who hadn’t really jelled into a talkative group. There were long painful silences each night. One of my dorm-mates sat at one of the other tables, and although he often dominated the conversation, he also managed to keep it lively, eagerly seeking out participation by everyone at the table. Eager to have more fun at my table, I quietly observed his methods in the hopes of trying to learn how he did it. I realised a lot of what he said was crap, really, but his running banter provided something for others to respond to. And by drawing in others by calling out their names, people joined in eagerly, keeping the conversations lively, once he provided a starting point.
As an introvert, the idea of trying to start a conversation at a table full of very quiet people seemed impossibly difficult, but on the other hand, sitting at a table night after night with a group of people who didn’t talk was pretty miserable too. So, one night I plucked up my courage and told a story about something funny that had happened in one of my classes. I can’t remember what it was about, but everyone listened and I think someone laughed. So I told another story, and asked questions to the group by addressing a couple of individuals by name, and eventually the group was talking, albeit a bit awkwardly. But there was also a sense of relief around the table, that not only was someone making the effort to have a conversation, but that maybe there was a way out of the endless quiet.
Before I went to dinner the next night, I thought of a couple more stories I could tell, and I did that on my way to dinner each subsequent night. And each night at dinner, I told another story, and soon someone else joined in, and because I do like a good laugh and generally am not shy about laughing out loud, our table got a bit louder, and slowly over a period of a week or so, our discussions became more fluid and it wasn’t always me who started the conversation. It turns out of course that there were some really interesting people at the table who had just needed someone to start the conversation, and take up the responsibility to make sure there was a topic or catalyst each night.
Eventually, we had our own fun table gang that I looked forward to spending time with each evening. I felt really proud when my talkative friend from the dorm eventually came and sat at our table, as clearly we were having a whole heap of fun that he didn’t want to miss. And his moving to our table actually precipitated a lot of other people moving around the table groups and mixing things up every night, because it had become clear there were a lot of really interesting people at all the tables and we all wanted the opportunity to spend time with each other. Which was the point of the supper club to begin with; they had just gotten stuck in the table group rut.
So I want to encourage you to remember that sometimes it is worth the temporary discomfort of pushing yourself out there a little bit, especially when the rewards can be so huge. My efforts could have flopped if no one laughed or engaged in conversation at my table, but since we were all there to meet people, the risk to me was pretty low, and the alternative to do nothing was pretty bleak. And the result was really amazing! We ended up not only gaining a whole group of people to enjoy who had been unengaged, but we also ended up changing the way the supper club was organised so that each member got more access to everyone else, and with a lot more fun on the way.
Never underestimate the power of your introverted skills to quietly create change in your organisation for the better, for everyone.
A few resources for Introverts...
The science explaining the differences between introverts and extroverts
Just say Dopamine or acetylcholine. Here is the link to the article:
The power of quiet selling
Using your introvert strengths to excel at selling, something we all need to do at some time for something, even if it is *only* the benefits of a specific holiday booking to our partner!
Leading as an Introvert
How to turn your strengths as an introvert into leadership strengths:
For more resources for and about introverts, please take a look at a few of my recent blog posts and the resources section of my website.
Fun Friday Workplaces
Sometimes it pays to lighten up a little. Every organisation has some down time at one point or another. If not, some downtime should be built in - particularly if you have all been working hard - in order to make sure you get some time together with your whole group to relax together and have a little fun. Your morale and spirits will all be boosted by the change of pace.
We had a tradition for awhile in one of my previous organisations: every time we submitted a big bid, we’d order pizza for everyone in the office. When we were a very small company (under 20 people), every big bid usually ended up with everyone working on it to get it out the door, from the accountant to the PhD scientist. Pizza for everyone made sense. We just had to make sure people washed their hands if they were working on the documents!
Once we got bigger, not everyone got involved in the bid preparations, so we stopped the big group pizzas except maybe when we won a big award, and then we’d do something for everyone. But we realised those little gestures of group effort and time for celebration had gone a long way towards pulling us together, so we created a few other activities for us to do in order to keep the bonds across the company in effect.
We had our annual Halloween staff meeting and party of course, where all staff change into costume before the late afternoon live-streamed meeting, and usually hilarity breaks out after a short attempt at trying to conduct a bit of business. We also started a few monthly Friday afternoon activities organised by our staff, in groups by hallway location. Since we tended to mix staff disciplines along the hallways, that ensured there were a variety of functions and skills in each hallway group. Some of the activities included: wine-tasting, where each office of 2-3 people hosted a different wine and we could wander down the hall to sample and learn about the wines; a similar beer-tasting activity; we had a hallway nerf bowling game; and there was a treasure hunt using obscure facts about various staff and company history.
Obviously you can come up with myriad other activities that resonate with your staff, and the point is to do something out of the usual together, and make it all about fun. Even better if you task your staff to come up with the ideas. Make sure there is no work and no hierarchies involved - just enjoy the range of talents and creativity of your staff, and see what fun happens!
5 Things you can do now:
Here are five ways to gather in the next month, with a few suggestions to get your started:
Fun Friday Workplaces
If you think you should always be customer focused, you are right, but you should also put your employees first. If your employees are taken care of with sufficient pay and thoughtful benefits, are well-respected, given opportunities to learn and grow, as well as have flexibility in how they do their job, the returns to you, your customers, and your business will increase many times over.
What the doctor said
When my son was a toddler he suffered from repeated ear infections. Neither of us got much sleep, and we spent a lot of time at the pediatrician's office. Finally the doctor told me we needed to take a different approach because I was getting worn down, and he reminded me that if I was run down, everyone else would suffer. I needed to make sure that I was taking care of myself first, otherwise, how could I expect to take care of my two young children. He was right of course, and that idea stuck with me.
As my work responsibilities increased over the years, and I was now responsible for others, I realised that this advice actually applied really well to our staff as a whole team. When our staff was well-taken care of, and feeling engaged in our work, involved in decision-making, and appreciated for their amazing contributions, our work output soared, our clients were delighted and it was a great place to work.
Focusing on our staff well-being actually flowed directly to client satisfaction because when our staff were happy and engaged, they worked hard, came up with creative solutions to our clients problems, and our clients loved working with us as the energy was infectious.
Does this sound like your organisation? Is there anything you can do to improve how well your staff are engaged with their work? Take a read through the articles below for a few other perspectives on staff engagement and how focusing on your staff creates benefits that flow directly to your customers and to your organisation's financial performance.
People desire to be the best in their field
By creating a culture where every staff member feels valued, your staff will perform at levels that are thrilling for them and rewarding for you and your business. Here is a short article that explains why:
How work and health can go together
I first was made aware of this 'radical' new way of thinking when reading an article by Steelcase, the furniture manufacturer. While Steelcase focuses on the way the workplace itself can be physically organised to improve your health, this article (and soon-to-be-published book) focus on how reducing stress in the workplace can make us more successful and yes, even more healthy. Makes a lot of sense, and I am looking forward to reading the book.
Unleash your employees' super powers
This is another recent article about a relatively easy way to convert your successful but not rockstar staff into super-performers. It requires you to make a connection with these staff individually in order to find out what they love about their work. Then try to recast the job so that it focuses on those things. You don't have to exclude everything they don't like, just re-jiggy their assignments as best you can and see if that doesn't provide a quick boost. Read more here:
Fun Friday Workplaces
Early on working for my first start-up company, we figured out that our company culture permeated everything. Every choice we made, from the way we organised the company structure (partnership) to the kind of office space we chose to work in (moderately private offices with lots of open collaboration spaces), to the way we interacted amongst ourselves (informal and very collaborative) and of course the way we dealt with our clients (very transparent with high ethical standards and honesty, even if it wasn't what our clients wanted to hear) reflected and demonstrated our values, brand and culture.
In each company I've started up since, that same goal of identifying our values from the beginning has helped us implement a consistent culture and has been a wonderful way to make decisions easier. In this post, I've compiled a few articles and links to information that can help you think a bit more about your own company culture. Let me know what you think!
Picnic Table Wisdom
Like many startups, an earlier company I worked with began in a living room. Our first proper office had a large south-facing deck with a picnic table, and except when it was raining, it was where we all gathered to eat lunch, have after-work parties, conduct small meetings, and just pause during the day to catch our breath and rethink a problem.
That deck space represented a place where everyone was included and sat together; there was no place for ‘cool kids’ to separate themselves, or for introverts to hide. If you went to the deck, you were included in the community. Conversations flowed easily and creatively. Everyone was valued. It was a serendipitous discovery of one of the many things that made our workplace an amazingly creative and positive place.
You can read the rest of this article here: http://www.brilliantworking.com/blog/picnic-table-wisdom
A few articles on Culture
Culture eats strategy every time
One of my favourite explanations of why culture is so important to guide your company, and how some of the simplest actions reverberate so thoroughly. Here is the link to the article:
It is not what you make, it is what you stand for
Jim Collins on how to describe what you stand for so it actually does some good. He describes five important characteristics of a good expression of a company's core purpose. Here is a link to the article: http://www.jimcollins.com/article_topics/articles/its-not-what-you-make.html
The value of your brand from the beginning
Five useful tips for small businesses to help get their brand (which derives from the culture) right from the beginning. Here is a link to the article:
Fun Friday Workplaces
It's Fun Friday workplaces! If you are lucky enough to have a large space, here is a great way to create flexible spaces within it. This way you can provide special event spaces, training rooms, small group work areas that only need a short term use, and so on, without permanently taking up space that can be used for other purposes and in other configurations at other times. (photo from gallery.australianinteriordesignawards.com).
I love to hear from you: what you think about any of these articles, a suggestion or link to one of your favourites, and if you just want to say hi.
And as always, I hope you have a brilliant weekend!
PS. I am in the process of switching over my social media accounts that have to do with workplaces and better working practices from Plymouth Cowork to Brilliant Working. For now, most of my past content is on the Plymouth Cowork sites; eventually it will be transitioned to names with Brilliant Working.
I am a resolutely positive, glass half full person, so I think focusing for a time on all that is good in your life has endless benefits. We all work hard, and tend to focus on what we need to improve, and where we messed up or could have done better. And whilst it is good not to be oblivious of these things, I think focusing on what went right, and where we did it well will set us up for more positive results moving forward. Numerous articles back me up on this; a selection of just a few are below.