5 things you can do to make work a happier place
It might be your first week back at work, and you’d be forgiven for feeling a little… flat.
No matter how much you enjoy your job, there are going to be days (or let’s face it, sometimes weeks) when work feels like a bit of drag.
Whether you’ve been working non-stop on a collaborative project, or your team is feeling a little low, it’s often the small things — rather than big team-building exercises — that bring people together and lighten the mood.
From building fun rituals into the work week to making an effort to eat together, here are five ways to make your time at work more enjoyable and productive.
Teams that eat together stick together
Great teams spend a lot of time together, and enjoy each other’s company, says Grant Brecht, a clinical and organisational psychologist who has worked with top sporting teams, including the Sydney Swans.
There’s nothing better than shared meals to foster this feeling — whether it’s lunch out to celebrate a birthday or simply sitting together while you tuck into meals you’ve brought from home.
“What it does is allows people to engage together, and not on a work-related activity, or something that is stressful or brings with it a lot of responsibility,” Mr Brecht says.
Whether you’re heading out, or are eating a packed lunch away from your desk, make a habit of asking your colleagues if they’d like to join in, Mr Brecht says.
If the logistics are difficult, you could try booking in a shared weekly or fortnightly meal just like you would a meeting.
Build team rituals into your work week
Rituals — big and small — can help foster comradery at work, says Remya Ramesh, a senior design leader at a major technology company.
Remya set up a fortnightly “lunch and learn” event in her office. It began when a colleague made a presentation about a conference they’d recently attended.
Over time, more and more people put up their hand to present. And it wasn’t just about work — the event expanded so that participants could talk about anything they were interested in.
“That was a great way for everyone to express their passions, as well as discover completely different passions,” she says.
If you’re thinking of starting something in your own workplace, know that it’ll take time and organisation, especially at the start.
For Remya, it was finding presenters and spreading the word. While she is less involved now, there is still some work involved to keep things running smoothly.
Create a space for shared interests
Having a space for people to connect over their shared interests doesn’t have to happen IRL.
At Remya Remesh’s work, there’s a chat channel for indoor plant lovers and one for “free food”, which comes in handy when there’s leftovers from catering in the building.
For Helen Macqueen, a consultant who works as a “team whisperer” for tech teams, there’s a chat channel where her co-workers — who are based around the world — share jokes.
“Every now and then I’ll have a quick look, and I’ll see some funny interaction, and will think about how I can join in,” she says.
“And sometimes it’s people who I’ve never met.”
Sharing first can help build better connections
By fostering better connections with our co-workers, we perform better and get more enjoyment from work, Helen Macqueen adds. It also means we’re more likely to spot when someone’s having a hard time.
It can be hard to know where people’s boundaries are, though. A good way of testing the waters, Ms Macqueen says, is to start by sharing something about yourself.
One time, while talking with a colleague who was very quiet and reserved, Helen mentioned she was an introvert. The response she received — “so am I” — helped open up and strengthen their relationship.
“It’s about going first and being willing to open up about your own struggles and challenges — and there is such a thing as too much information,” she says.
“It’s about creating that space and kindness, where even on a down day you are still accepted as an important part of the team.”
Bring fun into the workplace
One of the most important motivators for workers is having a sense of play, says Ms Macqueen.
The best jobs are the ones where you work because you enjoy it: the work is motivation in itself.
One way of lightening the mood and fostering a playful atmosphere at work is drawing, Ms Macqueen says.
“When I’m running a workshop — and I’m not a great artist by any stretch — I’ll draw cartoons and pictures,” she says.
“Because it’s not just words on a whiteboard, it’s simple but it makes it friendlier.”
Grant Brecht suggests bringing colour into your workspace, especially if you’re in a dreary office, or some nice plants if you’re into that kind of thing.