A better work place, a better world.

Ingredients for creating happy at work.

What is happening to the modern day workplace? We have technology’d ourselves into a non-active work-style. We have tattooed our brains with propaganda about working endlessly and tirelessly toward some ultimate “success”. We have built so many HR barriers that it’s becoming more and more difficult to actually know each other.

Sit. Stay.

I was talking with a friend the other day and he commented that he is getting out of shape, really needs to get back to hiking. “I get to work every day and I sit at my desk for 8 hours straight — I tried the standing desk thing, but I just wasn’t as productive.” His body was rewarding him with stiff muscles, poor posture, aching joints, and a new 10-pound pouch at his middle. I suggested that the trouble wasn’t the fact that he was sitting instead of standing for the work time, but that he wasn’t taking breaks from the work time.

Our computers are powerful tools and they are growing more and more capable every day. The belief is that the longer we sit (or stand) with our computers grinding and churning, the more productive we’ll be. Our supervisors and bosses want to see us at our desks, typing or digitizing or analyzing. Head to the grindstone, as they say. Taking a break, wandering outside for a short walk, stretching those stiff limbs and clearing that cluttered mind would be seen as slacking laziness. But the truth is, taking those breaks makes you MORE productive.

Scientists say that our brains need a break after 90 minutes of time “on task”. Basically, we have learned that a person working 8 hours with a lunch break is less productive that a person who works a cycle of 90 minute work / 20 minute break four times plus a lunch break. The overall “work” time is lower, productivity and quality are higher.

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Note to the self employed: Yes, I’m talking to you, too! The person you have watching over your shoulder is YOU. Note to bosses: When a person has a boss that never takes breaks, it’s hard to feel okay about taking one yourself. Lead by example!

Working tirelessly for what goal?

There is an old Brazilian story called The Fisherman and the Businessman. (translated beautifully on this link). In essence, a businessman vacationing in Brazil encounters a local fisherman. The fisherman catches what he needs, then spends the rest of his time living a very quaint and happy life. The businessman suggests that he work harder and grow an empire of fishing. When the fisherman presses to understand what the final goal will be, the businessman tells him that eventually he’ll have enough success that he can just fish for what he needs and spend the rest of his day living a quaint and happy life.

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I can’t help but notice that the businessman in the story is alone on his vacation. In my mind, he works tirelessly 50 weeks of the year, then binge-rests on his “vacation”. All by himself.

I support high ambitions and lofty goals. My parents started a business when I was 6 years old and worked their asses off. I collected a lifetime of valuable work ethic during the years I worked for them. But without balance, what’s the point? Without balance, you miss out on life. Without balance, you will become uninteresting and uninterested. So work your ass off if that’s the person you are. But respect the down time. Respect variety in life. And respect time. It is limited.

I’m sorry, do I know you?

Please don’t talk about religion at work. Please don’t ask a co-worker questions about their personal life. Please don’t date a co-worker. Please don’t stop working to ask a co-worker how their vacation was (or how they are doing post surgery). Please don’t share your experience from the yoga retreat. Please, just conform to the work environment, keep it all business, and don’t risk exposure.

Here’s the problem: it has become so inappropriate to be “personal” at work that we hardly know each other. I don’t have to be part of your personal tribe to want to know about you personally. And I’d like my co-workers to know a bit about me — I mean they might find me interesting.

When I know a bit about my co-workers and they know a bit about me, we form what’s called a “relationship”. Cool, right? One of the definitions of relationship is “ the way in which two or more people or organizations regard and behave toward each other.”. Apply this definition to an employee-employee relationship. Apply it to an employee-employer relationship. What do those relationships look like when the participants don’t really know each other. I suggest that if we can become more personal at work, we’ll know each other better, we’ll find work more interesting, we’ll collaborate better, we’ll support each other more, and we’ll be happier. Proven fact: If we are happier, we are more productive.

“Having scientific support for generating happiness-productivity cycles within the workforce should … help managers to justify work-practices aimed at boosting happiness on productivity grounds.”

In Paul Dolan’s book Happiness by Design, we learn that happiness comes from including activities of both pleasure and purpose in your life. Find that balance during your work day. There is a purpose to your work…if nothing else, the paycheck. Maybe you find your work very purposeful and powerful. But if it there is not an element of pleasure, you won’t be happy. And as we know, happy people are more productive at work.

Here is the recipe I’m suggesting:

  • Incorporate breaks into your day. Research the Pomodoro method or the 90 minute work method.
  • Build variety into your life. Explore hobbies, try new things. Don’t let your entire existence play out as sleep-eat-work-eat-sleep-eat-work-…
  • Take the time to get to know the people you work with. Take the risk of letting them get to know you.
  • Blend the above ingredients until they are a smooth habit. Then just enjoy.

Cultivate a healthy, happy work environment. Then carry that health and happiness to the world everywhere you go. Spread your energy and the world will be a better place.

I wish for you a happy day and a happy life! And please ❤ my article so more people will find it!

I am Rachel Tawil Kenyon. Click on my profile for articles about living a balanced existence at work and at home.