Who among us would not like to love our job? It is no secret that for many people, the workplace is a source of great stress and dissatisfaction. From large companies to small teams, we often find ourselves uncomfortable in the routine we are subjected to on a daily basis.
Maybe we don’t find the space to concentrate and we seem to be throwing away precious hours of work. Or we can’t communicate effectively with colleagues and we feel isolated. Or again, maybe we seem to spend our lives in a meeting, without concluding anything.
However, this does not mean that we must resign ourselves to passively undergo the situations that arise in the workplace. Each of us, in its own small way, has the power to apply small changes, which will benefit not only us, but also our colleagues and maybe help us find the joy of work.
Rediscover energy – and stop wasting it (recharge)
The world of work is invaded by a burnout epidemic, and in some sectors there are even companies that, well aware of the damage that their employees suffer, adopt a strategy that many define as burn and turn , or “burn and change”, so their employees are squeezed to the last, and then replaced with others when they collapse under the weight of stress.
But why is this phenomenon so widespread today? According to many, this spread of burnout is due to the omnipresence of our mobile phones. Instead of making us work smarter, reducing the load and giving us more free time, they have transformed us into a sort of zombie, always connected but never really focused.
Open Space and Monk Monday Morning
In recent years, many companies have adopted an “open space” structure, where everyone shares a single, large workspace. The adoption of open space has several reasons, both organizational and economic, yet several studies show that, as far as productivity is concerned, it is a disaster. Being constantly surrounded by others takes away our ability to concentrate, forcing us to jump from one conversation to another, without ever dedicating ourselves completely to what we are doing. Sure, there are times when sharing ideas can be beneficial, but in most cases, moments of intensive work occur when we are isolated, free to reach a state of “flow”.
One technique that we can adopt to regain these moments of concentration is the “Monk Monday Morning”, or the Monday morning of the monk. It is a question of scheduling moments (in the example, Monday morning), in which to be “not available”, that is, not to reply to e-mails, phone calls and requests, and not to attend meetings. Having such moments will help us work better, and feel more satisfied.
How many hours a week do we spend sitting at the meeting room table? How many of these hours are truly productive? We are inundated with work, and sitting at a table certainly does not help us solve the problems that afflict us. In this case, the solution could be very simple: get up and go for a walk. From a mental point of view, changing the environment and diverting attention from what we are doing leads us to think differently, to evaluate things from a different point of view, often noting things that otherwise would have escaped us. From a physical point of view, moreover, walking stimulates the circulation, bringing more oxygen not only to the brain, but to the whole body, giving us a sort of “recharge”.
What do we think if we see a colleague wearing headphones during working hours? Many of us (especially the less young) turn up their noses, seeing it as a lack of respect or seriousness. After all, if a person listens to music, how can he concentrate? Yet often headphones are used to concentrate, isolating us from the outside world, to be able to focus on what we are doing. Creating some moments of the day (ideally before and after the lunch break) in which allowing people to wear headphones can bring great benefits.
We are so used to filling our calendars with projects and meetings, that the very idea of having free moments makes us feel like slackers. We live in a world that is full of notifications and stimuli, and consequently we always feel restless, as if we could never complete all our tasks. The first step towards peace of mind is to give each thing the right priority. To do this, we must first recognize that being always engaged does not mean being always productive. By nature, some activities do not need to be carried out immediately. If we manage to organize our day by giving the right priority to things, the work environment will become more peaceful for both us and our colleagues.
Before the advent of communication technologies, work was something that happened in the office. When we got home, the work stayed there, it didn’t follow us. In recent years, however, the work has increasingly begun to permeate the moments that were once dedicated to something else. As a result, the number of actual working hours has grown dramatically, to the point that many of us struggle to find times when we are not working. However, several studies show that working longer hours doesn’t mean getting more, quite the opposite. Exceeded a total of hours (around 50 weekly), our energies are exhausted, and productivity drops drastically. We must actively commit ourselves to limiting and defining the moments of work, and make sure to take at least one day a week in which not to work.
Another big problem today is presenceality: the idea that only if we are in the office are we really working. While for some jobs that require physical presence, this requirement is fundamental, there are many other jobs that do not necessarily require our presence at the desk. On the contrary, this imposition risks taking energy and concentration away, creating the opposite effect to that desired. It is time to free yourself from these outdated conceptions, to stop imposing strict rules on workers, instead trying to create a situation in which they are able to make the most of their potential.
Notifications and messages
Creativity and stress don’t really get along. When we are stressed, our creativity is greatly affected. Not only that, our ability to make decisions is also severely hampered during stressful moments. One of the major causes of stress that we experience today is due to the constant hum of notifications and messages that we receive. Disabling notifications for a few hours a day can undoubtedly help us reduce stress levels, allowing our minds to gather all the energies that would otherwise run out on each other, and focus on what is really important.
A disturbing trend that is spreading in the business world is that of the so-called lunch at the desko – that is, at the desk (a play on the expression in the fresh air, eating outdoors). The idea of eating “one thing on the fly” without moving from your workstation may seem tempting, because it leads us to devote more time to work, but like so many other things we have seen, the effect is different. Going to lunch with colleagues allows us not only to change the air, do some movement, and maybe choose a little healthier food, but it also provides us with a precious opportunity for human contact.
Bringing the team together (sync)
Man is a social animal. Our evolution has led us to develop a strong sense of belonging to our social group. The same mechanism also occurs in the workplace. Our participation and satisfaction reach a peak when we experience a sense of belonging and acceptance.
Many companies try to adopt a “corporate culture”, a series of principles that should dictate the way the company operates. Ideally, corporate culture should directly affect employees’ experience, their way of “living” the workplace. In reality, however, this rarely happens. The daily life of a worker is often so far removed from those who establish culture that it is difficult to cross the different levels of the organization.
What most shapes our experience at work are our superiors and our colleagues with whom we work directly. A manager who does not support us and does not make us feel appreciated is among the most common causes when we decide to change jobs. As an old saying goes: “People leave their bosses, not their jobs.”
A good manager is able to create a situation that makes us feel positive and calm, two elements which, as we will see, are fundamental to creating enthusiasm. To create a sense of “engagement”, or rather of involvement, companies must encourage collaboration between colleagues.
Creating spaces where people can gather during breaks, such as break areas, promotes interpersonal relationships, an important factor that contributes to the sense of belonging. It is important that people feel free to socialize at times when they need it, and the idea of having to limit the chatter is absolutely to be overcome.
Finally, for a manager, it is important to be able to become a support figure rather than a control. The role of a boss must not be that of a controller, who is concerned only with squeezing the worker, but rather that of a facilitator. He must be able to find the right balance between moments of involvement, such as meetings and teamwork, and moments of tranquility, in which each worker is free to concentrate on his / her tasks without continuous distractions.
Secrets for an energetic team (enthusiasm)
When we feel a sense of involvement and positive energy, we reach a state of enthusiasm, commonly called “buzz”. This state is the result of the presence of two well-known phenomena:
- Positive affection – a positive attitude, an optimistic outlook towards the world, and what lies ahead. There are many studies that show how a positive attitude has positive effects on what we do, simply by transforming our attitude, changing the way we think and allowing our brain to work in the best conditions. Our cognitive flexibility grows, increasing the chances of different cognitive zones being activated.
It is true that even in times of stress and pressure, our brain is able to respond in a similar way, activating some cognitive faculties that would not activate in other situations. The difference is that stress, if present for more than a very short period, has catastrophic effects, both mentally and physically.
It is therefore absolutely preferable to try to create an environment that favors positive affection.
- Psychological security – a sense of tranquility that allows us not to always have to be in self-protection mode. The idea that at work we are under constant scrutiny by colleagues and superiors makes us raise our guard, which can be a positive thing. But, just like stress, this mood becomes extremely toxic after some time.
Each of us must be aware of our responsibilities, and the consequences of our actions, but we must also be calm enough to know that making a mistake or expressing an opinion will not have catastrophic consequences.
If both of these elements are present at work, then we can achieve that state of enthusiasm, which can have miraculous effects for us and for colleagues.
The best way to deal with work is to see it as a problem to solve – a problem for which we don’t necessarily have a ready solution. We must be ready to recognize that the other members of our team may have different ideas, perhaps even better than ours, and we must be open to collaborate. If we can accept this way of looking at work, we will be working to find a solution, rather than to make our superiors happy.
When we finish a project, we take time to talk about it with our team. Let’s analyze what went well, what we could have managed better, or in a different way. We also reflect on what went wrong, but to find a better way to face this type of challenge, not to find culprits to be punished.
Speaking of teams, a problem that often arises, especially in large companies, is that of too many teams. Simple processes, like the design of a social profile, risk ending up in a vicious circle of revisions and discussions.
A practice that has spread to many companies is to establish a so-called “hack week” – a week in which employees are free to engage in other projects – whatever they are. In many companies, this has led to the development of ideas which have since become successful products. Giving people the freedom to devote themselves to their passions frees them from the constraints of modern work.
Love the place where you work
We all dream of a job that makes us feel good, of the colleagues with whom we get along and of the leaders who support us and enhance our work. Turning an office or a company into a place like this is possible, but we must learn to untie ourselves from obsolete, and often wrong, conceptions.
With everyone’s commitment and participation, we can go back to loving our work.