A Comprehensive Guide To Finding Delight in the Workplace
My first job out of college was at a music publishing company in New York. I worked there just over two years as the assistant to the CEO and one of the VP’s. When the time came to move on they gave me the sweetest send off...literally. My boss ordered 12 dozen donuts, put them at my desk, and e-mailed the entire company to drop by to say, "so long," because, “There are 12 dozen good reasons to do so.”
There were lots of hugs, sweet words, and a few tears on my part (nostalgia is my life), but there was one thing that stood out the most to me: “I’ll always remember how nice you are. You’re the nicest person I’ve ever worked with.”
More than, “you were really good at this job,” or “your talent will be missed,” or, "good job making all those deadlines," he told me that I was nice. It meant the world to me.
I’ve had a few jobs since then and I always wonder what sort of legacy I’ll leave behind in the workplace. Have you ever thought about it? A job is an opportunity to further your career, yes, but it’s also an opportunity to impact others. When you think of it that way, you flip everything you ever thought about “work” on its head.
Which is how I came about actually putting the words “delight” and “work” in the same sentence. It’s not an impossible idea, and I’m going to prove it to you. Work doesn’t have to be the worst part of your week. Let’s stop compartmentalizing where we place our happiness and let’s do better. Let’s be better. For the people around us and for our own well-being.
1. Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a regular theme on ATD, heck, I even have an entire journal just to remind myself to be thankful. If you pay attention, there are reminders everywhere. For example (and don't laugh at me), Matty and I watched Shawshank Redemption this week (I'd never seen it...I know). There is a scene where the prisoners are offered an opportunity to do repair work on a roof. They only need a few hands, but over 100 men put their name in the bucket for a chance to win the lottery: slapping tar on a roof.
I wondered what world I'd have to live in to pray that my name would be drawn for such a case. Later in the film, opera music was illegally played over the loud speakers while the prisoners stopped in their tracks to listen, feeling free for the first time.
I'm not saying that you should compare your life to a prisoner to be happy. And let's be clear: you'll never find thankfulness by comparison. You find it through awareness. When you're aware, the simplest things become worthy of your gratitude: a healthy breakfast and 5 extra minutes to yourself, a joke from a co-worker, hot coffee, the opportunity to make an impact. Even a bit of opera music.
2. be delightful
To give is better than to receive, right? If you're walking into your office, your coffee shop office, or even your home office, the worst way to hope for a good day is to place that burden on your surroundings. People can be difficult, coffee gets cold, computers turn off for no reason. This isn't being cynical, this is recognizing that we are responsible for our happiness.
Bringing your bit of delight to the day changes the entire atmosphere. I think the biggest challenge against delight is complaint. It's so easy to complain alongside our co-workers so here's a way to combat that: let them know you understand how they feel, then help guide them to the bright side. It might not change the way they feel immediately, but it won't leave a sour note in the air if you simply agree with them.
This one is incredibly practical. If you don't get rid of distractions, you won't do the work.
I'm the first to admit that I've had days where I went to work tired, agitated, or feeling way too self-important. I'd spend the day on social media, reading blogs, online shopping, and reading celebrity gossip in between managing my inbox. At the time, it felt like an indulgence. Like I'd earned it.
But then I'd come home and feel gross. I went to work with absolutely no drive and therefore nothing to show for it. I wasn't proud of myself.
So here's what you do: Put your phone in a drawer. Don't open any desktop windows that aren't absolutely necessary to your task at hand. Give yourself small goals ("I'm going to focus on e-mails for the next 30 minutes," or "I won't take a break until this project is finished," etc.), and reward yourself with a coffee, a 10 minute walk, a quick scroll through Instagram - whatever it looks like to you.
At the end of the day you'll feel better for getting the work done.
4. do the scary things
Guys, I can't tell you how many times I've been terrified on the job. Almost every job I've had has required me to be on the phone which, quite frankly, used to cripple me. One time I had to call K-Mart as a young teenager and it gave me nightmares.
Eventually, I learned the phone. I found out that my voice is rather pleasant and was thus charged with recording an entire company phone system. Talking on the phone? Not really a big deal as it turns out.
This won't be a surprise to you, but it will be a reminder: You know that stuff that you have an opportunity to do but that feeling in the pit of your stomach tells you you'd be better off if you went home and slept through it? Not true. Do those things.
Meet the people. Take the calls. Go to the events.
Recently I got an e-mail from a co-working space called WeWork. They were interested in working with ATD and I was thrilled because I love what they're about.
"Absolutely. Yes, let's do it!" I answered before fear crept in. As I drove around downtown Austin looking for a place to park I had about 20 minutes to change my mind. I had no idea where I was going or what to expect. I didn't know who I'd meet or how they'd treat me. When it comes down to it, I think I was just afraid of looking like an idiot. Just before I was about to make the ultimatum ("If I don't find a parking spot in 2 minutes then this isn't meant to be!") I slid into a spot directly across the street from their building on Congress Avenue.
I was nervous. I tried to open a door that was locked and people were watching me from behind the floor to ceiling windows. And then I heard a familiar voice, "Hey Britt!" I turned to see a friend from church who had just come from WeWork, as fate would have it. He kindly let me know how to get in (go through a different door, take an elevator - so far from what I was trying to do), and said I'd love it up there. Right then.
From the moment I got off the elevator I felt at ease - no doubt due to the friendly faces that greeted me. I was given a tour by one of the managers who made me feel like I was priority number one. The space - you guys - it's amazing. It's fresh, colorful, inspiring, comfortable, bright, fun, cheeky, even. There's free craft beer, coffee, and fruit-infused water. There are three floors overlooking Austin and everywhere you look people are working, laughing, chatting, and collaborating.
It turns out they really care about connecting people, which was why they were so good at making me feel valued. No, not feel valued, show me that I actually was valued.
I left there feeling like I was walking on air. I was proud of myself for going in (once I found the right door), for having the ability to hold a conversation (sometimes it's hard, y'all), for talking about the work that I do. And for doing the scary thing.
5. Create Your Space
Find out what helps cultivate a productive and happy work environment for you, then make it happen. Try inspiration boards, playlists, quotes you love, or even a clean space. That's an anomaly for some of us.
Besides the nice people (see - kindness counts!) one of my favorite parts about WeWork was how conducive the space was. There was a perfect buzz between interior style, inspired, happy people, and a desire to do good work. I saw how it effected me within just one hour of opening my laptop. I kid you not, it was the best and most productive hour of work I had that entire week.
I couldn't help but snap a few photos to share while I was visiting the space. WeWork has co-working office space in the USA, Netherlands, Israel, UK, and coming soon to Mexico and Canada (check out all the locations here). I highly encourage you to check out their website and send them an e-mail to schedule a tour!
I know work isn't easy. My mom used to tell me "work is called work for a reason," but we aren't really talking about work, are we?
We're talking about our own spirit, our own drive, and our own courage.
So here's to bringing more delight wherever we are - even if sometimes it requires a little work.