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.
I read a couple of thoughtful articles this week that I’d like to share with you on the topic of healthy workplaces. Yep, that is one of those vague statements most organisations believe they have, or say they are striving for, but holistic efforts to actually address the full health of employees in the context of working is difficult to achieve. There are small nibbles around the edges: paying for gym memberships, ergonomic chairs, and sometimes healthy snacks.
In his article “Mindshift sets sights on understanding well-being in the workplace”, Bob Fox, publisher of Work Design Magazine, and the founder and CEO of the Washington, DC-area design firm FOX Architects, states:
“We are realizing that the way we work today is the root cause of a tremendous amount of sickness, disease, and other health-related issues, that, beyond affecting an employee’s personally, also reduce productivity, create performance issues, and are ultimately a significant cost to businesses today. And sometimes, the workplace is working against these employees. What we are realizing is that our increasing focus on attracting top talent; people and their performance are going beyond wellness, engagement, creativity and general productivity issues have more to do with our entire well-being. Our mental, physical, emotional, and social state is critical to our ability to perform well consistently; and the spaces where we work are influential in our success.”
There is finally a recognition that every person at work needs to be emotionally as well as physically healthy in order to do their work effectively and in a sustainable way. This clearly affects any organisation’s bottom line, from their ability to sustain product innovation to reducing staff absenteeism and turnover.
Not only do workplace practices and values (such as trust) help support the positive health of employees, the physical workspaces within organisations can also be aligned to improve well-being. In a separate article in Work Design magazine, Bryan Croeni, AIA, MA, LEED AP, director of B+H Architects’ Seattle office and cofounder of B+H Advance Strategy, describes the goal of creating office space, “that advances the social and cultural infrastructure necessary to create a sense of belonging and shared community”.
Given the decline of community in general in society, as well as the younger generation of workers showing a strong dedication to community and service, Croeni proposes that perhaps our offices can help move us towards reestablishing a sense of community in our lives. The article goes on to suggest that designers look at workplaces as the new village, with main street, marketplace, meeting halls, schools for learning, pubs for relaxing, and so forth.
These articles provide intriguing and positive perspectives that you might want to consider and attempt in your own workplaces. As always, if you want help or additional direction, don’t hesitate to get in touch!
Links to the articles
Bob Fox Article:
Bryan Croeni Article
Fun Friday Workplaces
As always, get in touch if you have any questions about any of the content here, or want to talk more about how I can help you with you brilliant organisation.
When the world is experiencing dramatic events on an almost monthly basis, we need to process and manage our responses to them. While it is not always relevant to our workplaces, sometimes the events hit too close to what we do and believe in to ignore, or to expect people at work to carry on as if nothing has happened.
So how do you deal with the emotional response to traumas in your workplace?
The linked article (below) by Michelle Kedem has some useful suggestions for how to get discussions started in your organisation, starting with this:
“You don’t have to take sides or have the perfect words. Acknowledging what people are going through and creating safe spaces for conversation goes a long way toward cultivating a workplace culture in which everyone on the team feel invested.”
Over time, I’ve experienced a number of dramatic events while employed at a variety of organisations. Sometimes, when there was no acknowledgement of the event or trauma, the individual conversations turned heated, repetitive, and sadly, sometimes hurtful. After the events of 9/11, there were months of intense internal conversations covering every topic under the sun, and it was exhausting. We have learned now to always acknowledge an event; sometimes it is appropriate to just let people vent a bit, or talk about where they were and what happened to them. Some people like to share and take action, others process on their own, or with non-work friends and family. It is important to always be reinforcing a workplace environment where people are respectful of others with differing feelings and opinions so that when these events arise, awareness of and respect for differences are already part of the culture.
There is no right way to respond to traumatic events, and no one should be required to to share their opinions or feelings at work. Providing official acknowledgement and a place and time to process emotions at work is healthy and useful for many of us. It is also part of allowing staff to be their whole true selves at work, complete with emotional robustness and weaknesses.
Allowing emotional responses to traumatic events is also important for those events that happen internally. When we had a suicide in one small company I worked with, we immediately brought in a professional facilitator, as we realised the leadership was not equipped to deal with the avalanche of feelings that cascaded through the organisation. Bringing in an outside facilitator not only acknowledged the importance of the impact of this event to all of us, but it also allowed the leadership to deal with their own feelings as well, and learn to help others over time. We provided time for people who wanted to attend a group session with the facilitator, as well as time for people who wanted individual session with this facilitator.
Whilst it is not an easy part of managing, spending time with staff processing through emotional events does lead to greater understanding, insights and empathy between individuals throughout your organisation. And hopefully that will make everyone healthier and more satisfied.
Here is the article:
Fun Friday Workplaces
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
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
This week I want to highlight the world of introverts. I was first introduced to introversion as a 'thing' when I first watched Susan Cain's TED talk on Introverts in the workplace. It was one of those lightening bolt moments for me. As I had been labeled shy as a child, and have trouble speaking up in large groups, I was always sure it was my 'problem' and that if I was just a little bit more clever, I could 'fix' it. Listening to Susan Cain's talk, and subsequently reading just about everything she has published, and much, much more on the topic, I have now claimed my ground as one proud version of Introverted. If you are introverted, or work with any introverted people (which I think should cover just about everyone!), I hope you find the information in this week's post useful.
Strategies for working as an introvert
When I wanted to reach out to new audiences to promote my coworking business a few years ago, I discovered there were only large networking events that took place at times and places inconvenient to me, as well as not allowing me to showcase my best self. My intolerance for loud, crowded spaces, and preference for deeper conversations with one or two people over quick small talk meant these kinds of networking events were a wee form of torture. As a result, I decided to start my own networking group: these were small, personal events at my coworking space that allowed for more in-depth conversations, the opportunity to learn a skill from one of the participants, engage in conversations around a common topic, and to go away more refreshed rather than depleted.
Since learning so much more about introversion, I now understand the many tricks I have developed to manoeuvre my way through a work life and practices dominated by extroverts. I am very aware of the importance for introverts of managing energy, space and time, and know also that these tricks can help everyone manage their work life more effectively.
I encourage you to learn more about introverts: how they work best, and strategies to include introverts in meetings and other group conversations. You may have untapped resources available to you in your current organisation that haven't had the opportunity to showcase their most amazing attributes. You will gain amazing loyalty and a more comprehensive range of abilities to help your business succeed once you create a workplace that frees up the diversity of thought and ideas to be heard amongst the loud extroverts.
If you want more suggestions, I've included strategies for creating introvert-friendly workplaces in my free pdf '18 Ways to improve staff engagement' available to download below.
Some additional resources for you
Marze creates a fabulous series of comics and sketches for introverts and those who want to know more about the mind of an introvert. Great way to introduce extroverts to another 'way of being' in the world.
Designing space to support introverts (and everyone else)
This article is a really nice summary of the benefits of open plan offices, as well as the ways open-plan offices can succeed, if they incorporate more than one way to work into their overall plan.
Susan Cain, author of Quiet (see below) identifies 5 ways more quiet staff (or introverts) can use their strengths to provide brilliant and effective leadership. Empowering introverts and the people who work with them is an effective way to expand the skill set of your staff in ways that will help them and your bottom line immeasurably. Imagine giving someone the tools to step up to another level of performance in ways even they didn’t believe was possible! This is a fantastic way to increase engagement and loyalty, create a successful internal career path, and avoid hiring someone new.
The Book, Quiet
I can’t say enough good about this book. Everyone - introverts and those who know them - should read this book. Besides discussing introversion in all it’s colours, shapes and flavours, Cain also discusses information around motivation, collaboration, leadership, in a way that is surprisingly compelling. In addition to providing strategies for introverts to succeed in an extroverted world, there are also useful tips for extroverts who work with introverts. You can also listen to Cain's ground-breaking TED talk, here: https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts?language=en
Fun Friday Workplaces
That's the first full week of July gone then! I hope you all have a summerlicious weekend.
If you want to chat about anything discussed here, comment below or get in touch via any of the media below or the contact form on my contact page. See you next week!
Start at home....
This week's post focuses on recruiting, and ways to bring the best possible potential candidates to your organisation. Recruiting can be a bit of a minefield, and if you are growing quickly, can create lots of growing pains for your staff, and numerous unintended consequences. I hope the information and articles linked here give you some useful food for thought, and ideas for you to implement in your organisation.
5 Suggestions for finding and keeping your talented staff
Finding and keeping talent is a common issue with growing companies – and can take a lot of time and energy away from getting your paying work done. In an increasingly global market for talent, where people can work from anywhere, you may need to be more creative about how you attract top talent to your organisation, and keep those exceptional staff you already have. If the way you have been finding your staff isn’t working as well as you would like, here are 5 suggestions for finding the best quality staff you need to grow your organisation.
1. Does your website and other communication appeal to your target staff?
If the way you communicate to your customers isn’t relevant or it doesn’t show a commitment to values that resonate with your potential staff, it will be a lot harder to convince them to work for you. Make sure your website reflects the personality of your organisation, and the values behind the products or services you provide. Check out http://careers.socrata.com/ to see an example of an inspiring careers page (disclaimer: my daughter works there.)
2. Does your current staff know you are looking for more talent?
Are there incentives for them to refer people they know to your company? Reminding staff that you would love to have more great people just like them working at your company is always a great place to start. Small hiring bonuses can go a long way as well to encourage referrals. Bonuses can be cash, vouchers for nice restaurants, or other benefits that make sense for your business and staff interests.
3. Do you have a presence where your target hires are?
If you hire University graduates, do you attend career fairs on campus? In addition, developing relationships with professors in the disciplines relevant to your skill needs may lead to interesting collaborations and projects, as well as give you an inside track with soon to be graduating staff. If you hire computer engineers, do you go to Meetups and conferences where your potential staff spend time?
4. Is your workplace appealing to your target employees?
Does your staff have flexibility in where they work based on the type of work they are doing (e.g., small conference rooms for meetings versus quiet space for heads-down concentration)? Can they work from home? In general, the more autonomy and flexibility your staff enjoys, the more likely you will be able to attract and keep top quality employees.
5. Do you offer industry-leading perks for your current staff?
Perks don’t have to be extravagant – we can’t all provide Google-level benefits. The more benefits you offer that are tuned to the needs of your staff and reflect the character and brand of your organisation, the more unique and personal your offer to all staff will be. Free healthy snacks, event tickets, periodic free lunches, outside or inside game breaks, continuing education opportunities…use your imagination, and better yet, ask your staff! At one company I worked for, staff were given 20 hours paid time each year to work on journal publications, as this was an important professional achievement in our industry, and of course benefited the organisation as well.
Some additional resources & reading for you
Who do you need on your staff?
This article from IDEO offers up some types of talent you many want to consider including in your suite of on-staff expertise. As mentioned in the article, the brilliance of these roles is that they can be embodied by anyone in the organisation.
This article looks at some of the factors that lead to employee satisfaction as a method for creating better, more motivating and satisfying jobs for current and your future staff.
If you hire university graduates
This Harvard Business Review Article provides some surprising strategies for how to reach the university graduates you want to recruit. (note: I wrote the article above listing my 5 strategies before I read this!)
Fun Friday Workplaces
This week's focus is on our working spaces. In general, traditional office spaces tend to provide two types of working spaces: one kind of space for people to work by themselves (in an office, a cubicle, an open-plan workstation, etc.) and a meeting room for formal meetings. If you are lucky, you have a coffee machine/tea kettle somewhere. In reality we need a variety of working places, depending on the type of work we are doing, which may change throughout the day, week, and month. For part of the day, we need to hunker down alone and analyse, program, or write. Later we may need to meet with our manager, or a few team members on a project, or go to a formal meeting, and certainly at some point we will need to take a break from whatever we are doing to have a cup of tea or a cold drink and a snack or lunch. Where will all of this type of work get done?
As well, part of working life is learning new skills from formal training, and also importantly, having some unstructured time with our colleagues to allow relationships and understanding to grow, so when we work together on a project later, or need some specialised information, we know a bit about that person already.
Offices need to provide this kind of diversity of spaces, or allow their staff to access a diversity of space, if it is not within the current configuration of the office. Not only is it important for the optimal functioning of your current staff, but it can also help with your recruiting as well when you provide a flexible workspace with a variety of ways to work.
Working spaces are where we spend the bulk of our waking hours: what if they helped us become MORE healthy and energised instead of the reverse? Read on for more on this topic!
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.
When we were moving to a new office due to growing staff size, I knew we had to recreate that ‘picnic table’ community culture somehow, even though we wouldn't have a deck. We had a huge bright long space for the kitchen and eating areas. But whilst the president suggested cafe tables and bar stools which would look nice, I knew our staff NEEDED the singular picnic table. We valued collaboration, and that sense of inclusion. But of course we were now no longer an office of 15 people, we were 35 plus several other offices. How could we all fit around our very weathered 6-person picnic table?
After some research, I found a VERY long picnic table. It was one of the first things to get installed in the new space, and it worked like a charm. Everyone instinctively gathered there and it became the site of hilarious lunchtime conversations, birthday party celebrations, impromptu meetings, and the pausing place when waiting for a cup of tea, or the next pot of coffee to brew.
So whilst a table may be just a place to eat, for our company it reinforced the culture of inclusion and collaboration. Consider what your company’s ‘picnic tables’ are and how they reinforce and support your culture. You may be surprised at what you discover!
A few articles on work space
Creating people-centred workplaces
Create a people-centred workplace using a flexible design that encourages all kinds of people to do their best work, so the entire office is a 'productivity-builder'.
Offices that work for introverts as well as extroverts
We all know open offices have their downsides, particularly for introverts as well as those who need quiet uninterrupted time to focus, but done thoughtfully and with an appreciation of needs for other types of spaces as well, open offices have value if they are part of a suite of working options.
'Space is both a reflection and a projection of company culture'
But that doesn't mean you need foosball tables and your logo pasted everywhere. Instead, use your own data to learn what is being used and when, ask your staff for their opinions, and make the best use of your space for the functions you actually need and use - not what you think you are supposed to have.
Fun Friday Workplaces
I always love to hear from you, what you think about any of these articles, if you have a suggestion or link to one of your favourites, and if you just want to say hi.
And as ever, I hope you have a brilliant weekend!
Ahh, nothing is better than those first few days of your vacation. And one of the hardest parts of coming back is the transition to old work habits. This year, why not try to apply some of those nice holiday habits to your work life and keep the happy vibe going?
Check out these five tips and let me know what you think:
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.