Tag Archives: happiness in the the workplace

Is there such a thing as Worklife balance?

19 Aug

If you think that your life only happens outside of work and everything within work has nothing to do with Life.. well that’s F@#*ed.

When Stevie Wonder wrote and recorded Songs in the Key of Life at the Crystal sound studios in Hollywood, as he sat in his studio he wasn’t tempted to substitute  the word life for work because he had clocked into work to record the album. To him recording that album was life too. It’s all life. Can’t imagine Stevie clocked in each day either.

Yet we separate Life and work constantly because Life is seen as the good stuff and work represents the drudge and banality of our existence so we can merely have more of the good stuff(Life). We are guilty of separating the two as if neither had any connection to the other. You don’t hand over the keys to life experiences at the door of your workplace when you enter each day and pick them up again as you leave. While sitting at your desk, driving your truck or designing a skyscraper you are wrapped up in all the emotions and reality of your life,neither are separate. If you can cry or laugh while you are work …that is living.

The words we associate with both words also define how we think of them. Work hard, sacrifice, workplace stress, work rate, overwork. There is even a word for death by overwork in Japanese called “karoshi” and in China its called “guolaosi”

Life is affirming, beautiful and wonderful and very much connected with the now.

Yet we use language that connects work to experiences that we would rather avoid.

Work hard- Play hard.. what bullshit. Who thought of connecting the word play with hard. How many schools and nurseries are littered with instructions for younger versions of us to play hard when break time comes around. If play was hard it’s unlikely any four-year old  would ever bother with it.


“I do not particularly like the word ‘work.’ Human beings are the only animals who have to work, and I think that is the most ridiculous thing in the world. Other animals make their livings by living, but people work like crazy, thinking that they have to in order to stay alive. The bigger the job, the greater the challenge, the more wonderful they think it is. It would be good to give up that way of thinking and live an easy, comfortable life with plenty of free time. I think that the way animals live in the tropics, stepping outside in the morning and evening to see if there is something to eat, and taking a long nap in the afternoon, must be a wonderful life. For human beings, a life of such simplicity would be possible if one worked to produce directly his daily necessities. In such a life, work is not work as people generally think of it, but simply doing what needs to be done.”
― Masanobu Fukuoka, The One-Straw Revolution


Play is fun and as outlined in the Sawyer effect when work becomes play the magic happens. It is when we separate Life and work and play becomes work that our motivators in life are lost and this is when we are most likely to want to treat work as an external to our lives


“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.”
― Alan W. Watts


On a daily basis we get asked “How is work?” but we rarely if never get asked “How is Life? as if one is easier to answer than the other. Yet both are one. If your life experiences while at work are effecting your relationships and health. Then you may be in the wrong job or with the wrong company. The more you separate the two the greater the resentment for the one you like least appears. The solutions to this will come in another post but the truth is that…..

There is no work life balance, there is only Life. It’s all Life.

Five Questions to a happier workforce

1 Jun


I will keep this short. Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman have a great book “First break all the rules’ Both Marcus and Curt have worked for Gallup in numerous roles . Gallup has for more than 60 years  led as world leaders in the measurement and analysis of human attitudes, opinions and behaviour.

Keeping it brief and without explanation here are 5 questions that every employee within an organisation should be able to answer yes to. If not there is work to be done in reaching that goal of workplace satisfaction and more. Here they are.

  1. Do I know what is expected of me at work?
  2. Do I have the materials and equipment to do my work right?
  3. At work do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day?
  4. In the last seven days have I received recognition or praise for good work?
  5. Does my supervisor or someone at work seem to care about me as a person?

Get five Yes’s from your employees and its Happy days. If not.. talk to your employers and  find out what you need to do to change the result. The answers will give you clearer idea on what you need to do to achieve this. Simple

Is the 6 hour work week around the corner?

25 May

Why do we 8 hours or more a day? Because we always have done!

Why have we always done? I think Henry Ford came up with it!

Why did Henry think 8 hours was best? He wanted to give his workers free time to realize they needed to buy stuff.

Was it not something scientific that he had based on improving worker health and wellbeing? Not really but Ford thought “It is high time to rid ourselves of the notion that leisure for workmen is either ‘lost time’ or a class privilege.” Henry Ford cut the working week from 6 to 5 days, doubled the wages from $2.34 for a nine-hour day to $5.00 for an eight-hour day and in return gained greater productivity. The results spoke for themselves. Workplaces quickly followed suit maybe not doubling the wages but shortening the working day and week.

Now it seems it is time to question the 8 hour working day. Do we really work for the whole 8 hours or more we are in work? To be honest it’s unlikely. We become our most creative and imaginative when we are looking for outlets that are not work. We spend ages with Dave trying to fix the photo copier feeder when really we have no clue how it works simply because it feels better than working( and it looks like work) . We volunteer to nip to the coffee shop down the road for everyone because it’s a break from work ,something interesting could happen on the way and it is work related so technically it’s work but with more chance of excitement. Many of us would quite happily volunteer to  jump in the car if needed and travel for an hour to deliver a package to the other side of the city  if it was urgent. Tunes on the radio and a new visual landscape . Happy days.

Although for some of us work is engaging and stimulating for many, most of the working day is spent thinking about activities we would rather be doing than sitting at this desk. Or we engage in activities that take us away from that working space in our head, social media updates on our laptop/Phone, online news feeds, emails from friends, researching and booking holidays etc. The truth is for most workers we would rather be somewhere else doing something different.

We could create a workplace like Google with all the benefits of free food , ergonomics and workplace stimuli but that can create burnout and it’s not home. As much as we would like to create positive relationships with our co-workers, they are no replacement for our family(or maybe they are).

Why not create a work environment where people can be their best, play to their strengths and simply go home. Jason Friend of Basecamp is a big proponent of shorter working weeks. “I wanted to do something about this. So, at 37signals, the software company I’ve run for the past 13 years, we take inspiration from the seasons and build change into our work schedule.

For example, from May through October, we switch to a four-day workweek. And not 40 hours crammed into four days, but 32 hours comfortably fit into four days. We don’t work the same amount of time, we work less. When there’s less time to work, you waste less time. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time

The Gothenburg experiment with the 6hr working day is trialling at the minute in Svartedalens nursing home in southern Sweden. Early reports are good.An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health. A year’s worth of data from the project, which compares staff at Svartedalens with a control group at a similar facility, showed that 68 nurses who worked six-hour days took half as much sick time as those in the control group. And they were 2.8 times less likely to take any time off in a two-week period. There has been opposition from politicians.“It’s the type of economic thinking that has gotten other countries in Europe into trouble,” said Maria Rydén, Gothenburg’s deputy mayor and a member of the opposition Moderates party. She is leading a campaign to kill the trial, citing high taxpayer costs and arguments that the government should not intrude in the workplace.

We can’t pay people to not work,” she added.

Workers in a nearby Toyota service centre have been working a 6 hour working day for the past 13 years with no plans to reverse it. The benefits to the workers and service centre are too evident. Greater production over 6 hours rather than 8 and more family downtime to do activities in life that make us happier.

Asking your staff what would work for them to become more productive might surprise you. A shorter working week as a trial might not be a bad thing. One Friday a month and see if the world stops turning. Or one week of working 30 hours per month. We are imaginative beings and ultimately flexibility is the key to the future workplace if we want to survive. Use that imagination.

Netflix embraced the flexible workplace years ago.” We should focus on what people get done., not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a 9-5 policy we don’t need a vacation policy” said Patty MCcord who is feted with creating the culture within Netflix. “There is a no clothing policy at Netflix but no one turns up to work naked.” In 2015 Netflix also announced that all employees would be entitled to unlimited parental leave at their choosing. Can we begin to seesaw trust is becoming a major factor in the new workplaces. Think about this are your best relationships and friendships with people you trust and can communicate well with or with people who you fear and openly distrust. The answer is here.

If you are willing to spend your weekend responding to worker texts and emails be prepared to embrace a shorter, flexible and more productive working week.

I started this article with the 3 Why’s that helps you look at what you do from a more crtical position. So start with this at your next meeting.

Why do we think that a 40 hour week is our only option?







Who worked less hours the medieval peasant or the 21st century worker?

9 Mar

14th Century worker

Is the 40 hr working week a thing of the past? You would hope so.

Did you know that in the 14th century the average casual labourer worked 1440 hrs a year. OECD figures for 2013 show us that the average UK worker worked 1,669 hours last year with Greece putting in a whopping 2,037 and the Netherlands enjoying a 1380 hr working year. The USA worked 1,788 which possibly could be higher due to the large number of part-time work and multiple jobs held by Statesiders.

Working conditions may have been a lot different in the 14th century  and have been dictated by seasons and weather. Workers at that time also found many reasons to celebrate a high number of seasonal festivals and stop working when they had made enough money. There was no material goods on hand in shops that required excessive need for money.Working hours were shorter and life was celebrated.

Although by the time of the industrial revolution working hours had got out of hand when seasons, lighting and weather did not dictate the amount of work a man could do. By 1840 the average UK worker worked between 3105-3588 hours a year… Gulp!! But luckily for those aged 9-13 yrs old the 1833 Factory Act had limited their working day to a meagre 8 hrs and those aged 14-18 only had to work 12 hours of their day. The 19th century became the period when workers realised that there was more to life than toiling. The first murmurings that changes were on the way came at around the 1840’s. Samuel Duncan Parnell a carpenter by trade in New Zealand “There are twenty-four hours per day,eight of these should be of work,eight for sleep and the remaining eight for recreation and in which men to do what little things they want for themselves

It was really midway through the 20th century that the 8 hr working day became a realisation and law for many countries.With countries like France in 1936 through the Matignon agreements and the US in 1938 through the Fair labour standards Act, the 8 hour day became a changed way of working. Electricity, lighting with mechanical modernisation allowed greater efficiencies and less manual input.

John Maynard Keynes even spoke about the 15 hour working week becoming a possibility by 2030. With giant technological and computerised advancements and a world of automation you would have thought that the 15hr week would have become reality for many as we move through the 21st century. Allowing man to spend time educating himself, developing a greater personal wellbeing and creating communities that benefit everyone. But the rise of consumerism was something that Keynes never foresaw.  Governments unease at having a large number of their population with time to think and possibly… revolt is probably a factor too. To be honest we have not developed societies that know how to cater for mass free time or know how to fund it. With the eventual introduction of Universal basic income we might see a change to this.

In the Netherlands were the average working week is 29 hours and a World Happiness ranking of 4th place it looks like there are benefits to working shorter hours. With 15 years to go until we hit 2030 it looks unlikely that we will hit the 15 hour working week, unless you count the arrival of zero hours contracts which have no benefit to the employee.

My belief that shorter more efficient working weeks benefit everyone. I have written about it on numerous occasions. We should grasp technology and automation and start to develop communities and societies that integrate wellbeing with work. With more emphasise on wellbeing than work.The idea that man is incomplete unless he has employment is a fallacy. We just haven’t thought hard enough about the possibilities we could replace work with. The Medieval worker would have gladly grasped the development of Steam power and machine tools that drove the Industrial revolution but would have baulked at the idea of handing over all their free time and a 150 day working year. A working year that in 2015 many of us would still envy.

Happy @work Lunchtime talk

8 Oct

happiness2 photoHad a great day at Yesterdays lunchtime talk on Happiness at work. An even greater reminder that companies start to trust their employees and start to concentrate on Employee wellbeing. The rewards will be tremendous if companies understand that making your staff feel valued and trusted are the keys to workplace happiness.

Companies who want an insight into how to increase workplace wellbeing and your bottom line would enjoy a lunchtime talk. Bring your sandwiches,bananas and coffee and enjoy a great lunchtime experience.


Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)

20 Sep

All my blog entries are my own. But I found this article by David Cain particularly interesting. I am a strong advocate who questions the benefits of a 40 hour week. I don’t see it as a positive for creativity or productivity. Have a read of this informative article.Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek).

Why You hate Work

9 Jun

Why you hate work 1This is an interesting  Article from the New york times by By TONY SCHWARTZ and CHRISTINE PORATH on employee Engagement, Purpose, Motivation and the effect that regular Downtime has on creativity.


Happiness at work on the radio

6 Jun



Just Click The radio above to hear my interview with Jolanta Burke on Happiness in the Workplace. Happy days.



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. co.uk. 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 Happy.co.uk 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 Happy.co.uk  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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