I wanted to share this great article from IDEO alum and design Ingrid Fetell Lee about the importance of having a joyful work environment, and what you as an individual can do about it!
She starts with all the important reasons why joyful work spaces are needed:
…Research shows that feeling joy at work not only increases our wellbeing, but also our performance across the spectrum. Joy increases our working memory and cognitive flexibility, which in turn leads to better problem-solving. Take doctors, for example: Those who have been primed to feel joyful make a correct diagnosis earlier than those in a neutral mindset. Joyful businesspeople consider a wider range of scenarios and make more accurate decisions. Joyful negotiators are more likely to achieve win-win agreements. And it turns out it’s infectious: Joyful leaders spread positivity to their teams, increasing rates of effort and cooperation; and when salespeople exhibit joy, customers respond by spending more time in a store, giving higher satisfaction ratings, and expressing a greater likelihood to return.
Full disclosure, right after reading this I did an audit of my desk at work and found I had already implemented a couple of these, including based on the same research she cites, but I missed a couple I am definitely going to add! 🙂
I could, and will, write a whole blog post about just the first sentence of this article.
But I’ll just let you read the whole piece and save that for another day.
Play has a PR problem. Some think of play as frivolous –- a distraction, or worse, a waste of time. In the office, play is often regarded as a break from “real work.” But what if the opposite of play isn’t work, it’s boredom? What if work could actually benefit from play?
As a partner at IDEO, I help instill a playful culture, not only in mindset, but also in our daily behaviors. Play allows us to experiment, empathize and take creative risks. Ask anyone who works at IDEO — having play engrained in our culture makes it an incredibly satisfying place to work. It keeps us engaged in our projects and makes us better innovators.
In preparing to teach a new online course on IDEO U, I’ve been thinking about the behaviors of play that have allowed our team to be successful in developing and executing ideas to meet the needs of a particularly tough group of consumers: kids and their parents. These six behaviors not only manifest themselves in the products we create, but also in our interactions as designers, and I believe they can have a profound impact on every organization’s ability to innovate.
I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about making happy, playful spaces. But in the end the most important thing to making a space playful and happy is the people that fill that space.
According to a new study by Alex Bryson and George MacKerron, published through the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics and Political Science, of all the things we choose to do at work (other than work!), it’s casually interacting with our colleagues that makes us happiest. From the study: The largest positive net effect of combining work and another activity on happiness relates to ‘Talking, chatting, socialising’. . . . There are clearly positive psychological benefits of being able to socialise whilst working. It is the only activity that, in combination with working, results in happiness levels that are similar to those experienced when not working.
Now, according to this same study they found the strongest correlation between reducing stress and working was watching videos (film, TV), which indicates to me the study may not be the most robust, but to be fair other studies have found a strong correlation between watching cute things and destressing and an increase in the ability to concentrate, so if these study participants were watching cute puppies and kittens then that makes perfect sense.
I certainly know that having good coworkers makes a huge difference in how much I enjoy my work (and lucky for me I’ve got great coworkers!)
What do you think? Does your personal work happiness depend on your coworkers? Share your work stories in the comments below.
This article brings up an interesting idea of a “forced” playful space. You can certainly encourage creativity and playfulness, but forcing the issue can backfire in a bad way.
“We have recently seen many offices that try to evoke a kind of forced playfulness,” says Sam Hecht, founder of London-based Industrial Facility. “Slides, chill-out zones, ping-pong, or a kind of home-like interior. We were very suspicious of this.”
For his own take on the flexible office system, Hecht and his partner, Kim Colin, adopted a more nuanced approach to getting employees to think fondly of their office–and not view them as places of mandatory drudgery. Locale, for Herman Miller, uses modular pieces that easily adjust in place and height to create what Hecht calls neighborhoods.
I definitely agree that everyone has to buy in or the “playful” environment doesn’t truly exist. A space designated for “play” just becomes a dead zone at work if nobody wants to hang out there, or knows they’ll be scolded by fellow workers for disrupting work, or viewed as “lazy.”
I’m curious to hear more of why the Locale design would make people feel more neighborly. Thoughts? Ideas? Leave them in the comments below.
Most of us these days work in a cubicle, although the past ten years have really seen a transformation of space and place at the workplace in order to create happier, and therefore more productive, workers. This article in the NYTimes focused on some organizations in Seattle that have embraced a more open work floor plan:
MARTHA CHOE’S ideal working space is not her private office, nice though it is, but rather a long, narrow table in the vast atrium of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation headquarters here.
Ms. Choe, a former member of the City Council here, is the foundation’s chief administrative officer, and she had considerable input in the building’s design. One objective from the start was to give the 1,000 employees a variety of spaces to accommodate different kinds of work. “There’s a recognition that we work in different modes, and we’ve designed spaces to accommodate them,” she says. “I think one of the lessons is to understand your business, and understand what your people need to do their best work.”
The building was designed by NBBJ, a 700-employee architecture firm whose largest operation is in Seattle. The structure is a culmination of ideas about the 21st-century workplace that NBBJ has been exploring in corporate office designs worldwide, including its own offices here.
These are the main concepts: Buzz — conversational noise and commotion — is good. Private offices and expressions of hierarchy are of debatable value. Less space per worker may be inevitable for cost-effectiveness, but it can enhance the working environment, not degrade it. Daylight, lots of it, is indispensable. Chance encounters yield creative energy. And mobility is essential.
This isn’t a suddenly exploding trend. NBBJ’s research has found that two-thirds of American office space is now configured in some sort of open arrangement. But even as these designs save employers space and money, they can make office workers feel like so many cattle. So how to humanize the setting?
SEATTLE serves as a test tube because of several converging factors: There’s a lot of money here to experiment with projects. The work force is relatively young and open to innovation. And the local culture places a high value on informality, autonomy and egalitarianism. People will put in long hours under high pressure if they feel respected, but they won’t tolerate being treated like Dilberts.
Most office workers in Seattle and elsewhere labor in environments much less inspiring than Ms. Choe’s. And most employers have much less to spend to make things pleasant. (Bill and Melinda Gates personally contributed $350 million of the campus’s $500 million cost.) But staying competitive requires coming up with the best ideas, and the office environment can be the incubator for them.
I am all for creating spaces that encourage collaboration and make workers feel comfortable and ready to get down to business. My only question is lack of meeting space. In my last two jobs it has been very hard to find private spaces to meet, although both were cubicle-based workspaces so that layout doesn’t necessarily solve things either. And I’m not alone in my concerns, as the article points out:
NOT all of NBBJ’s corporate clients have boarded the informality-and-buzz bandwagon. When the R.C. Hedreen Company, a real estate development firm based in Seattle, commissioned a renovation of a 10,800-square-foot floor in an old downtown office building five years ago, it specified a perimeter of private offices. Collaborative spaces are provided for creative teamwork, but the traditional offices remain the executives’ home ports.
“Individually, a lot of our workday is taken up with tasks that are better served by working alone in private offices,” says David Thyer, Hedreen’s president.
What are your thoughts on work space? Do you like having an open space to share, or do you prefer your own cubicle or booth? How do you handle the meeting privacy issues at your office? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.