The Joy of Work is a synopsis of the long dedicated time and thoughts of Bruce Daisley to exploring the ways that work and working cultures impact our wellbeing.
There are things each of us can do to make our job, at the very least, a little more enjoyable. Bruce Daisley
Bruce Daisley is European Vice-President for Twitter and host of the UK’s number one business podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat. Campaign magazine asserted that Bruce is ‘one of the most talented people in media’.
In this book the author has distilled the wisdom of experts into 30 simple changes that anyone can try out for themselves or suggest at a team meeting. (Check out the latest price on Amazon HERE)
The book is split into three sections. Together they build into a scheme for creating happier work environments, but each chapter stands on its own.
- Recharge – in the first section, the author addresses how we can recharge our own energy.
- Sync – in the second section, he draws heavily on groundbreaking scientific research to offer suggestions on how to bring trust and connection to your team.
- Buzz – this section outlines the nirvana for teams: a work culture that has a special buzz to it.
Such is the state of modern work that in survey after survey over half of all of the workforce reports feeling burned out or exhausted.
The last fifteen years have seen incredible advances in our understanding of work. Thanks to neuroscience, behavioral economics and the arrival of ‘people analytics’, we know more than ever before about what work is doing to us – and the actions we can take to make it better.
Work used to be a lot more fun than it is today. But we can fix this. We need to accept that the demands on us have changed and adapt to them.
Recharge is a set of reforms designed to help make suggestions to improve your working life.
Recharge 1: Have a Monk Mode Morning
What our bosses do is a reflection of the two conflicting factors at play – a desire to appear connected with their teams and the struggle to get anything done in open-plan offices.
Survey found that not only did open plan increase the demands on workers but it also made colleagues less friendly to one another. Our meaningful work is more likely to be done in solitude. Constant interruptions and distractions also make us feel that we’re getting less done.
‘Deep Work’, the professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capacities to the limit. Cal Newport
But how we achieve ‘Deep Work’?
Employing Monk Mode Morning, when the first part of the day is depth time working in something that matter without meetings, calls, texts, email, no constant connectivity and the second part of the day is for other things.
Recharge 2: Go for a walking meeting
Walking proved highly effective when it came to liberating ideas, even if it wasn’t the most effective way to resolve complex logical puzzles. As the scientists put it, walking may not be good for convergent thinking (i.e. homing in on the ‘correct’, standard answer to a question) but it is a powerful tool for divergent thinking (coming up with fresh, imaginative ideas).
But it’s not just about coming up with productive ideas. Walks are a way of having meetings, too. ‘Walk It Out’ to help people unblock subconscious mental obstacles.
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. Friedrich Nietzsche
Recharge 3: Celebrate headphones
Headphones are essentially a coping mechanism: they help their wearers avoid distractions in an office where otherwise they’d be constantly interrupted.
The best way for us to work with headphones is to have periods when they’re allowed and others when teams agree not to use them. Having done some seriously productive work with headphones on, we can step into a creative zone precisely through the action of taking them off.
Recharge 4: Eliminate hurry sickness
In an era of hyperstimulation and intense activity sitting doing nothing seems like a barbarous waste of time. We’ve all got hurry sickness. We’re surrounded with devices lying to us, trying to appease our gnawing need to get something done.
One of the consequences of systemic overstimulation in our lives is an uneasy state of restlessness; a continual feeling that we can’t complete everything that we need to.
So what can any of us do to push back against this burning sense of urgency?
- – Recognize that constant busyness doesn’t equate with achieving more.
- – Once you’ve recognized that busyness is not everything, the next step is to calibrate urgency.
- – And on top of that you need to take time to reflect and to do nothing.
A moment’s peace and quiet will reduce your stress levels. Moreover, it will boost your creativity. Bruce Daisley
Recharge 5: Shorten your work week
Once upon a time, we finished at the office and went home. Now emails have extended the working day to the train, to the sofa, to the loo.
Long average working hours do not lead to greater productivity or prosperity. Bruce Daisley
We need to change the way we think about work. A useful thought exercise is to treat work as forty-one-hour blocks spread across a week. Most people work best in ninety-minute energy cycles. Getting ourselves ready to maximize the output of each cycle is the best way to get the most from our work.
Recharge 6: Overthrow the evil mill owner who lives inside you
Even though we know that people are probably getting their work done, we all revert to the norms of school and discipline. People need to be in front of us to convince us they are working. But we’ll only make work better if we prevail over the mill owners. And that includes the one inside all of us.
The Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) offers a different way of doing things, by setting clear short-term goals for teams – and then leaving them to get on with their jobs in any way they want. ROWE people don’t have to keep any particular office hours. In fact, they don’t even need to come to the office at all.
Recharge 7: Turn off your notifications
According to Professor Tom Jackson at Loughborough University, each of us experiences an average of ninety-six email interruptions in an eight-hour day. Many of those emails will prompt an injection of stress-inducing cortisol into our bloodstreams.
Some researchers have gone so as far as to say that phone notifications cause us to demonstrate the symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). They also point out that the more we swap our attention from the task at hand to the latest notification, the less mental processing we apply to each.
Contrary to what any of us might claim, our working memory can only properly process one thing at a time. Multitasking is a bit of myth.
Turning notifications off allows us to be more energized and creative when we are working. Bruce Daisley
Recharge 8: Go to lunch
In our daily routine environment, if we feel compelled to forgo lunch, researchers have found, we invariably suffer mental and physical exhaustion because we’re doing something we don’t really want to do.
Two necessary changes to our working habits should be made.
- 1. We should carry out important activities before lunch. Our mind is freshest then and most able to power through complex cognitive challenges.
- 2. We should stop thinking that we’re going to get more done by not taking a break.
What we actually do during our lunch breaks can also contribute to our happiness. Bruce Daisley
Recharge 9: Define your norms
We’re overwhelmed with the challenge of constant connectivity and we have come to accept it because we assume that that’s the way it is and it has to be.
But strangely studies have shown that the outcome of the unconnected day is that everyone fall in love with their work again. Communication between team members become more ‘intentional’; colleagues feel more deeply connected rather than less.
On the other hand, asynchronous communication, meaning people take turns to respond at a time that suits them can lead to more thoughtful and considered decision-making.
If you’re relying on other members of the team to pick up the slack when you’re not there, you’ll grow to trust them more and collaborate with them better. And you’ll feel happier and more rested, too.
Recharge 10: Have a digital sabbath
We’re in a constantly connected environment and we often feel helpless when it comes to disconnecting ourselves from the incoming traffic of messages. We may think that we’re checking our emails to avoid being stressed about work, but we’re triggering an injection of cortisol, which effect is tiredness and exhaustion.
A break allows us to recover our energy, attention, memory span and creativity. Bruce Daisley
Company leaders, instead of patting themselves on the back for being so visibly busy, they should be encouraging a culture where productive Deep Work, not email sending, is promoted.
Recharge 11: Get a good night’s sleep
There is almost nothing that is as good for us as a good night’s sleep. It makes us live longer, improves our creativity, enhances our memory, it makes us considerably happier and makes us more attractive.
Sleep is powerfully restorative. So if work seems overwhelming and if you reckon, you need to burn the midnight oil to get more done, pause for thought. You’re more likely to get where you need to be after eight hours of sleep.
Recharge 12: Focus on one thing at a time
Our relationship with work has always been complicated. If we don’t have a job, we’re unhappy. Yet when we do have a job, we invariably rate work as our least favorite activity.
So, how do you make yourself happier at work?
If you want to be happier in your job, then, doing one thing at a time is a route to happiness as well as productivity.
In an age when many of us have dozens of Internet tabs open in our browsers, when we can find we quickly skip from one activity to another to try to make progress, it can feel that haste means getting more done.
In fact, the opposite is true: your mind will most readily serve you with creative thoughts if you’ve completed more of the jobs expected of you. And to get things done you need to focus.
The easiest way to define sync is to say that it’s a connection at a human, empathetic level that brings a team together in trusted alignment.
All the evidence suggests that humans derive joy from being in synchrony with those around us. We are stronger, more energized and more collaborative when we are in Sync with each other.
Now let’s explore 8 ways to build Sync in the workplace.
Sync 1: Move the kettle
It is found that one of the most important factors determining the success of different organizations was ‘ideas flow’ – the capacity of new thoughts to cross-pollinate with others.
Most of the time, in most places, innovation is a group phenomenon. Bruce Daisley
Because workplace dialogue can be such a powerful driver of new ideas, everything should be done to encourage it. And often it’s just a question of how the physical space is organized.
Many researchers have discovered that the location of key gathering points as the water machine and kettle has about as much impact on who talks to who as the org chart.
Sync 2: Suggest a tea break
Having observed the colleagues’ behavior, rather than go separately for a break, colleagues should be allowed to take time off in teams, spending fifteen minutes together away from the constant barrage of queries and complaints.
- – The groups get more cohesive
- – Stress levels fell
- – The productive performance of the team goes up again
Sync 3: Halve your meetings
Why meetings are so unproductive?
The problem is that people in meeting talk and debate; they discuss and dissect every single thing. Their ability to learn is slowed by members of the group subconsciously asserting their social standing and position.
Teams should be small, and meetings smaller. The objective of a good meeting has to be to get as few people in a room as possible to make a rapid decision and to allow others to be aware of the process that went into making that decision.
Sync 4: Create a social meeting
Constant communication is the essential oil that lubricates an enterprise and ensures its smooth running. It’s what creates Sync.
Social time turns out to be deeply critical to team performance, often accounting for more than 50 per cent of positive changes in communication patterns. Sandy Pentland
The crucial thing is the social bonds between people. If you want them to work well with one another, you have to give them the opportunity to meet informally, to get to know each other properly, and to swap thoughts and ideas
Sync 5: Laugh
Not simply because it’s fun to laugh and see others laugh; laughing cements a sense of positivity, of resilience.
Laughter performs numerous functions. It builds trust, it helps us bond with one another, it creates Sync. And as our creative guards come down, it helps us have better ideas. Teams who laugh and joke together tend to be better able to open up and share challenges with each other.
Sync 6: Energize inductions
First impressions count. So thinking about how we welcome workers into their jobs is vital.
It’s easy to get consumed in inductions that offer either a litany of traffic rules or a list of the mundane aspects of the job. But inductions should be a colorful moment of engagement. If we want to encourage new starters to be their best real selves, let’s do that from day one.
Sync 7: Stop (being) a bad boss
Whether you’re the new recruit or the old lag who has been evading being found out for a couple of decades, it’s certain that you have a boss. All of us – even CEOs – are accountable to someone. And nothing affects what we think about our job more than our relationship with our boss.
What makes a good boss?
Two principal guiding stars seem to be involved.
- 1. Be supportive. At work, the belief that someone values us highly overcomes almost everything else. If we believe that our bosses love us, we are more likely to feel we’re happy in our job.
- 2. Have a good working knowledge of what you expect the members of your team to be doing. Knowing how something is made can help bridge the gap of understanding and create the essential bond.
Sync 8: Know when to leave people alone
In the early days of a project or a new initiative, you should leave people to their own devices, to dream up ideas and play around with them in their heads. But when it comes to finessing those ideas, or to solving problems and bottlenecks, then the team needs to be there to help polish and finesse.
Sync isn’t achieved by constant dialogue, but rather conversation and solitude act as the vital light and shade of productive working.
‘Buzz’ is the next step up – a sense of engagement and positive energy, created through a combination of two well-recognized phenomena: positive affect and psychological safety.
Positive affect facilitates creativity, cognitive flexibility, innovative responding, and openness to information. Alice Isen
If we’re trying to achieve the workplace Buzz that will help us enthusiastically do our best work, then we need not just to be in the right mindset ourselves, but to feel comfortable and psychologically safe among our colleagues.
Positive Affect + Psychological Safety = Buzz
Buzz 1: Frame work as a problem you’re solving
Instead of framing things in narrow or personal terms, we need to zoom out. Tell yourself that the project is different from anything you’ve done before and presents a challenging and exciting opportunity to try out new approaches and learn from them.
Our natural instinct in work and in life is to move towards certainty: we feel secure when someone appears to have the answers. But in the state of psychological safety, teams need to share uncertainties and vocalize their doubts and the consequence of it is an increase in trust.
Buzz 2: Admit when you messed up
A hot debrief allows a team to pause and honestly evaluate what they have just experienced. In a relentlessly paced world taking a moment to say ‘this is what just happened and I’m sorry for what I did wrong’ is incredibly powerful. Sorry is a word that by expressing vulnerability creates an environment where psychological safety can take root, with all the advantages that flow from it.
Buzz 3: Keep teams lean
It was Jeff Sutherland’s shock at finding how badly so many teams performed that led him to devise a new methodology called Scrum. The Scrum framework is a system that empowers small teams of developers to collaborate to achieve an agreed goal.
The psychological safety is more likely to exist in a small group where people feel that they can safely challenge the views of the leader if they feel it is necessary to do so.
Buzz 4: Focus on the issue, not the people
Testing new approaches, like scribbling down a doodled flow diagram for a particular project or a rough sketch for a suggested new process, might help to remove the personal element and encourage people to focus on the work at hand rather than the individuals involved.
Buzz 5: Introduce a Hack Week
Our satisfaction at work comes from having autonomy, mastery, purpose, and a voice. But while most of us might seek to map out our jobs to look like this, the actual work often gets in the way. And that’s why hitting pause on the day-to-day can be the most effective way to amp up creativity in our work.
The power of Hack Weeks isn’t just that they provide distraction and creativity in our repetitive jobs. The interruption from routine certainly prompts fresh thinking and renewal in our patterns of thought but above all.
Buzz 6: Ban phones from meetings
Discourage the use of phones and laptops during discussions. Get the devices out of the way and encourage people to connect properly with one another. Once that happened, there would be real scope for open dialogue and an honest exchange of views, and with those, a slow rebuilding of empathy and trust.
Whether it takes the form of an undistracted, face-to-face meeting or a friendly chat on the phone, proper human contact is the only way to achieve a state of workplace Buzz.
Buzz 7: Champion diversity
It’s easy to be with people who are similar to you and appear to be on the same wavelength. Achieving a balance of people from different backgrounds and with different outlooks is challenging. Diversity is obviously about much more than garnering different perspectives.
Companies whose workforce comes from a spread of backgrounds generally produce better results. Bruce Daisley
Buzz 8: Replace presenting with reading
By removing the grandstanding possibilities of the PowerPoint presentation and the conventional agenda-driven meeting, and by giving a memo to read and substituting a period of reflection and thoughtfulness, could one level the playing field.
Good meetings should engage everyone, and everyone should feel prepared and confident to contribute. The driving force of decision making and problem solving at meetings is engaged discussion.
Buzz 9: Conduct a pre-mortem
Pre–mortems in the business world are very constructive. Rather than inviting us to wring our hands over something that’s gone pear-shaped, at a point when there’s nothing we can do about it, they ask us to imagine how something might turn out, and then plan for it. Members of a team might, for example, be invited to jot down a list of things that might go wrong with a project over the following year and the reasons why.
If you want an honest conversation with people about a project and if you can cultivate a culture that celebrates curiosity and the asking of questions, a pre-mortem can be a very useful way to go.
Buzz 10: Relax
As serious adults in a serious workplace, we’re desperate to make the right impression, and so, we moderate what we say and do to project a favorable image of ourselves to others.
Because we don’t want to be judged or dismissed when we’re at work, we don’t like to let our guard down. We don’t relax. And we certainly don’t laugh. Quite simply, when we laugh we’re willing to show our truest selves to others and be more open and relaxed to the quirkiness of others.
Bruce Daisley in The Joy of Work, provides the results of his findings. Its brief chapters cover all elements of office life in the 21st century, addressing important questions and providing inspiration, empirical insight and practical responses.
The Joy of Work is a “trouble makers” Manifesto, anyone can use some or all of the tools I share to improve their Joy of Work. Bruce Daisley
(Check out the latest price on Amazon HERE)