Archive | May, 2014

Happiness isn’t complicated.

26 May

How Happiness at work affects American workers

19 May
Happiness at work.

Happiness at work.


16 May

Happy at work.This week I was lucky enough to attend the happy workplaces conference 2014 at the UK Google office organised by Henry Stewart at Happy. It was a pleasure to meet a large number of people who are committed to creating a workplace that employees are happy to be a part of.

I won’t trawl through the complete run down of the day. At the end of the day everyone speaking was aiming for the one goal of happier and healthier workplaces. I will point out some very interesting points that arose from some of the speakers and provide questions that you might like to ask about the organisation you work in.

We had Henry Stewart the CEO of and todays event organiser. Work for Happy for 6 years and you are entitled to a months Sabbatical from work . Nice perk for any company and certainly something to look forward to as a member of any organisation.

Q: What would be your sabbatical?

Julian Birkinshaw is Professor and chair of Strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business school. He looked at the importance of thinking differently at work, focusing on innovation. Pointing to H.C.L technologies who recognise the employee first and the customer 2nd . Not many companies are brave enough to act on this.

Julian also spoke about Hans Monderman a Dutch traffic engineer who dared to ask what would happen if we eliminated Road markings and traffic lights. The results were surprisingly brilliant. Your workforce is the same. Get rid of red tape and rules that make no sense and you will be surprised at what your staff will achieve.

Q: What rules or regulations that are presently a part of the running of your organisation make no sense and once eliminated will contribute to a happier, creative and more productive workplace.

Nicky Stone from Happy provided a great lunchtime talk on Henry’s Happy manifesto. Nicky spoke of the benefits of pre approving a project before an employee has even started it. She gave the example of  and it’s relaunched website in 2011. The whole project was pre approved a nd given to an employee John within the company. A couple of parameters around colour were provided. Also a requirements that the finished project should drive more traffic to the site. Henry saw the new website a day before the site was about to go live. At this stage no changes could be made. The website went live and within a few short months the traffic to the website had tripled. Nice work!

Q: What could you do to pre approve a project tomorrow?

Jennifer Kelly Global director of Real estate and Workplace service at Google was the next to speak. A very unassuming but interesting individual. She oversees 81 Google workplaces. Some interesting nuggets about how Googles design workplaces came up.

  • Neighbourhoods are created for teams to work on so that no member is more than 150ft away from the team.
  • Indoor bicycle lane in Amsterdam for Dutch employees.
  • Climbing walls for staff to exercise.
  • Slides (just like your childhood playground) that transport you from one floor to the next.
  • Relaxation and rejuvenation spaces for staff like aquariums and places that mimic nature.
  • Healthy eating in a free canteen.
  • Free bicycles to get around a large campus. Offer stairs as an alternative to a lift.

Q: If there were no limits what innovation would make your workplace even happier?

Lunch at Google London

Lunch at Google London

Tansy Drake and Tim Dorsett from Innocent spoke about the playfulness of working for the drinks company. ” At the end of the day we just squash fruit”

  • Everyone is present for the Monday meeting at 9 o’clock and is encouraged to contribute.
  • Famous for the Bananaphone. Ring the banana phone number on the side of their packaging and you will get through to a random employee on the office floor.
  • Dress up Fridays- were the staff don suits etc to work instead of the usual casual gear.
  • Instead of Employee of the month they have a presentation to  Lord or Lady of the Sash.Good fun.
  • Nine employees received a grant of £1,000 to spend on something they would like to do. One chose to do a remake of Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

All Innocent’s actions within the workplace try to mirror the fun element they sell when it comes to their brand. A likeable product and a fun workplace.

The last speaker of the day was Yvonne Agyei who is head of Benefits at Google. a very interesting speaker who decided to ditch her slides at the last-minute and quickly proved that she never needed them. When you create a workplace that is so as energetic and dynamic as Google the problems might arise when

  • Your staff prefers being in the workplace than at home resulting in the inability to shut off from work.
  • Most staff cannot detach- not even on holiday.
  • This can all result in burnout.

An interesting nugget of information that came from a question asked of Yvonne by an audience member. ” By creating a great workplace to work in do you see a difference in your employee absence levels?” Yvonne responded by saying ” Actually we don’t track employee absence, So I don’t know” ” The biggest problem we have is persuading employees to stay at home when they are ill rather than coming to work and spreading bugs and colds to their team” . When you receive free breakfast, lunch and dinner from your employer why rush home.

Q: How would you measure wellbeing at work?

This year I think it’s time to bring a Happy workplace conference to Ireland. Watch this space. Happy days.



Organisations in the 21st century

8 May


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