By LILY CHEAH
Most people will not describe work as joy. In fact, we can go as far as describing our jobs and the work we do as painful, tedious, awful, boring and often tiring and uninspiring. But can work become a joyful occasion?
Imagine a company where people love coming to work and are highly productive on a daily basis. Imagine a company which top executives, in a quest to create the most “fun” workplace ever, obliterate labour-management divisions and push decision-making responsibility down to the plant floor. Could such a company compete in today’s bottom-line corporate world? Could it even turn a profit? Do such “joyful” companies exist?
Yes they do. And there are many such organisations in the world. AES, whose business model and operating ethos – “let’s have fun” – were conceived during a 90-minute car ride from Annapolis, Maryland, to Washington, D.C. is one such company. In the next two decades, it became a worldwide energy giant with 40,000 employees in 31 countries and revenues of US$8.6bil.
CEO Bakke rejects workplace drudgery as a noxious remnant of the Industrial Revolution. He believes work should be fun, and at AES he set out to prove it could be. Bakke sought not the empty “fun” of the Friday beer blast but the joy of a workplace where every person, from custodian to CEO, has the power to use his or her God-given talents free of needless corporate bureaucracy
But AES is an American company. Do such organisations exists in Malaysia? Again, the answer is yes. I work for one such organisation. And there are many companies out there that employees come to work with “joy”.
One local organisation is social news network and technology outfit Says.com, with their 25 young employees with an average age of being 25 years old. Started in 2010, it has tripled in size every year, and is on WorldBlu’s list of the World’s Most Democratic Workplaces.
Stepping into its offices, it’s easy to tell that it is not your conventional company. For starters, the first visual you see as you step into its work space is a wall documenting the aspirations of Says.com’s employees and a space called “beyond” to house big dreams. The system is simple; each employee gets a sticky note, writes down their goal and sticks it to the board. “Find wife” is up there along with “Says going global” – acknowledging that everyone can be there for different reasons, and that’s just fine.
CEO and founder Khailee Ng says that Says.com’s work culture rests on a simple philosophy: people should be happy at work. They should be able to express themselves fully and creatively, and engage with their tasks and environment. Employees are rewarded well with traditional rewards but also with internal rewards such as the freedom to try new things, influence and lead new projects.
This intrinsic reward, says Ng, is crucial to instil in people a sense of freedom to take initiatives and recognises that satisfaction doesn’t just come from financial remuneration.
All employees receive daily updates on the progress of the organisation, and strategy planning meetings are an all-employee affair. In what they term a “town hall”, staff group together for an intensive session bouncing ideas and thoughts off one another. Everyone has a say.
The same empowerment is applied in the relationship building front. Every month, employees are given a budget to plan any group activities they like. At the end of every Friday, the team gets together for a “gratitude session” to each talk about something that they are thankful for. It helps employees bond, and they like to end their weeks on a note of thankfulness.
The best moments at work, according to Ng, are not the times when they record revenue months (as great as these are), but the everyday things, like laughing and sharing together. “The joy of work is possible” says Ng, “and we want to show people that it is possible”.
There are numerous other organisations where work is a joy to its employees. And it is not hard to create a joyful workplace. Motivation and joy are all around you so if you take the time to get in touch with people in your organisation, you too can be part of creating a joyful organisation.
Joy is not elusive. Joy in the workplace can become a norm in your organisation. It begins with each employee looking for simple ways to make your workplace more “joyous”. Don’t wait for others to start the ball rolling. You can start by taking the first step to making your workplace a place of joy, fun, laughter, care and love.
You may not be able to control management style in the organisation that you are in, but you can implement some simple initiatives to up your happiness levels at work. Here are three simple tips to try:
1 Make room for personal expression If your organisation does not have a board where you can proudly display your dreams and aspirations, make one. It’s easy to create a “joy” board in your office. Alternatively, there is always your personal desk space. Place your favourite things where you can see them, and stick quotes or visuals that inspire you. On challenging days, look at them and you’ll get a mini boost.
2 Plan fun activities. Spend time getting to know the people you work with. Take the initiative to plan a fun activity or outing such as bowling, hiking or badminton. From the experience of the “pranks” that are played on each other in my organisation Leaderonomics, this can be a great time to bond, build trust, and have a laugh with one another.
3 Say “thank you”. Many organisations have weekly gratitude sessions built into their work schedule. If you are unable to do this at work, try a gratitude board. It’s simple and we have one hung up at the Leaderonomics office. Have some sticky notes on stand by and write something nice to recognise what someone has done for you. Thankful people live longer!
4 Give opportunity for people to feel empowered – Occasionally, allow different employees to provide opinions and suggestions. Enable all employees to feel that the workplace is “theirs” and not something that they have to drag their feet to go to.