Tag Archives: happiness in the the workplace

More people are working from home. Is it the future?

17 Feb
Does working from home make more sense to you.

Does working from home make more sense to you.

Happy vs sad workers

8 Jul

You don’t need an infographic to tell you that most of North Europe does not experience high levels of sunshine throughout the summer months. Turn left at the UK and you will see Ireland a rocky outcrop on Northwestern Europe. Here is definitely not sunnyville. This week for some reason we have been hit with a sunny heat wave and it rocks.

The dilemma for most of us when the weather is this good is do we go to work or do we invent an illness and stay home. Or as an employer do we provide concessions to our workers and wrap up proceedings a little early and send your staff to the park or beach.

Weather like this in our part of the world does not come very often, would you blame us for wanting to soak up as much of that vitamin D as possible. Employers should take note. If you feel your staff have gone the extra mile for you throughout the year then this is the time to do pay them back. This will all depend on the industry you are in. A mass exodus of Traffic controllers from Dublin airport is not the wisest thing no matter how liked you want to be as a boss.

Yvon Chounaird  head of Patagonia the outdoor lifestyle company is a great believer that if the weather is right and your staff are looking to head out whether it is climbing, trekking or surfing just let them do it. After all his company was built on people being passionate about the outdoors. They will repay you in many other ways. Trust your staff to do the right thing.

Ricardo Semler from the Semco organization in Brazil trusts his people, that is how he turned Semco into a €1 billion organization, by giving his staff autonomy to the point that they can decide their own salary. If you have the right people onboard the salary they choose will define what they are worth and will correspond very closely with what you would offer. As Ricardo says

“I am not interested in…making sure that you (the employee) are here, that you are giving us so many hours a day. We need people who will deliver a final result.”

If you believe your staff need to be supervised constantly the likelihood is that they feel that way too and will want to down tools as soon as you are not around. My blog here explain Maslow’s X and Y theory and it’s connection with your workforce happiness.

Today or this week as the sun shines, think about what you can do for your staff that will make them feel valued (as they should be) . A round of 99’s or an afternoon off it’s up to you. The payback from your staff when that extra mile is needed. The wellbeing of your people must be paramount. Remember some of them see more of you in the 40hrs or so a week that they spend with you than the ones closest to them.

Happiness and motivation are created never bought. As Yvon Chouinard says“Let my people go surfing”

Happy Henry

28 Mar

Happy-Manifesto-front-coverHappiness in the workplace is an essential cog in the growth of all successful and sustainable companies. It creates wellbeing within your staff, increases productivity, lowers absenteeism rates and creates a healthier environment that your staff want to work in and in return your staff feel valued and willing to go that extra mile when needed.

I have with interest followed companies and leaders that are championing the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. Companies like Zappos with Tony Hsieh at the helm and Semco with Ricardo Semlers innovative approach to autonomy at work.

Another name that has been leading this field is Henry Stewart. Henry created the aptly titled Happy ltd a company that started in the field of I.T training and now helps companies to create happier workplaces.

Henry understands the importance of job ownership, trust and freedom to make the right choices in the workplace. He had initially worked as a financial officer for the News on Sunday which managed to close after 6 weeks and £6.5m in funding due to the fact that

  • Staff where not trusted
  • Strong blame culture
  • No freedom to execute the job.

Henry went on to create Happy ltd and 21 years after his experience with “The News on Sunday” he had led Happy Ltd to the position of 18th best workplace in the UK.

How Henry did this was down to reverse what he had seen in his previous role and provide his staff with

  • Trust and freedom
  • Communication
  • Challenges
  • Autonomy
  • The desire to want to turn up to work each day rather than to feel they had to.

He outlines how he did this in his book Happy manifesto. Here Henry asks questions that every one who runs an organisation should be asking of themselves and their staff.

  1. What can you do as a manager or colleague to make your people feel good now?
  2. How would your organisation be different if its key focus in management was on making its people happy?
  3. What would be different in your organisation if mistakes were encouraged and welcomed?
  4. Do you encourage your people to play to their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses?

These are just some of the questions that managers and company owners need to ask to grow the company that will serve us, our staff and our customers well. Otherwise we end up as corks bobbing in the ocean screaming “I must have control, I must have control”.

Well the cool thing is that Henry is organizing a Day on the 24th of April where you can get to meet him and some other fantastic speakers on the benefits of creating a happier workplace for you and your employees.If you can not make it a copy of the Happy Manifesto is recommended reading for all who are willing to make the leap to happiness at work.

Blue Buttons(embracing change at work)

13 Feb

The dreaded blue button

In my previous life I worked in manufacturing, a heavily unionised company at that. Unions are fine but sometimes they get suspicious when change is brought in. Especially if the relationship between company and unions is a little fractious. To simplify what I wanted to say, Picture a machine operator in this bloople factory. They operate the machine which produces the blooples for the bloople market. It is the operators job to ensure that the blooples are the correct size, weight and appearance to meet the standards set for sale. The bloople machine is automated but the operator has to keep a constant eye on weights,measurements and consistency to ensure the product is the standard required. The bloople operator has worked this machine for 10 years. They come in each morning and turn on the bloople machine wait for it to warm up and then press the green start button. Off the machine goes, producing blooples all day, at the end of the day the operator simply presses the red stop button and then turns off the machine goes home and doesn’t want to see another bloople until tomorrow. The operator has performed the same routine day in day out for the past 10 years. Not much is said to them. They think they are quite profficient at producing standard blooples. But they can’t be sure because they don’t ask many questions and after ten years of bloople production they don’t really care. They come in press the green button in the morning and in the evening press the red button and go home. Simple!

One day a young fresh faced engineer who has just joined the company turns up with the bloople operators supervisor to the machine. He announces that he has closely looked at the machine and believes he can improve the quality of blooples. The operator thinks, “what can he mean, I come in every morning turn on the bloople machine press the green button and at the end of the shift I press the red button. No one has complained about my blooples” “Oh yes” says the fresh faced engineer ” we have come up with a solution to variances in quality of blooples throughout the day”. ” The machine will now have a blue button that you will need to press halfway through your shift” he says to the bloople operator. “But what is wrong with the way I have produced blooples,for ten years I have pressed the green button in the morning and the red button at the end of the day and now you want me to press a blue button half way through my shift. Hang on a second there.” The bloople operator is not happy with the change in work practices and contacts his Union steward who explains to the bloople supervisor that there will be no blooples manufactured on that machine if there is a blue button placed on it. A stand off begins and negotiation between the Unions and management is called for. A pay rise, compensation and training are requested for a change of work practice by the operator. The management explain that the blue button will make the bloople operators job easier. The Unions argue that there was nothing wrong with the bloople operators work in the first place and this blue button is a change in work practices and workload on the operator. Arguments fly back and forth. Bloople production is hit and negotiations are ongoing. Until one day an agreement is met and the bloople machine with the blue button installed starts up again.

Six months later the operator is asked how they are finding the new version of their machine. They reply ” that they don’t know how they managed without the blue button for all those years” it has improved the quality of blooples he produces and given him less stress in maintaining bloople production standards on the machine. All are happy.

Where is this going. When we are stuck with thinking that does not want or have the will to change, we end up with an inability to progress forward. We spend a large amount of money drilling for oil, a product that is messy,dangerous and expensive to transport. Yet we have spent very little time trying to look for alternatives. The first electric car was produced in 1963 but since then we have heard very little about them. The great thing about electric cars is that they require very little maintenance, servicing is usually a windscreen wiper water change and they are more economical. But our thinking 100 years after the car has been invented has only began to seriously look at it now. Simply because the lack of oil requires it.

We park a car on the side of the street by the process of driving past the space and then reversing diagonally into the space. With all our engineering abilities you would think we would have come up with a wheel design that allows all wheels to turn into that space and then line up. Yet we haven’t. Our cars work off the same premise that they did 100 years ago(with some modifications) but it’s generally the same basics. The motor industry and many others are very like the bloople operator they will continue to plod along in a very self centered way. Without realizing that by looking at the problem from a different angle might provide a better solution for all.

Thinking differently allows you to accept change more readily. A closed thought process only builds frustration and frustration with the most constant thing in your life – Change – will prevent you and your ideas from growing. Love that blue button.

Why you should let your staff go surfing

21 Dec

We like this approach to management, in fact not enough companies think like this. Yvon Chouinard does and it this approach to business that makes Patagonia a company that people want to work for. The fact that they regularly have 900 applicants for each position within the company is a testament to this. But we at Wake Up! like companies that think differently and are conscious of the environment they inhabit and Patagonia who make climbing gear and outdoor clothing  are one of those companies.

Yvon Chouinard doesn’t have a business degree in fact most of his staff don’t have one either. He prefers to take on people he likes that have an interest in the outdoor life and teach them to be businesspeople rather than the other way around.He likes to break rules and make them work. We like him a lot.

Here are a few of Yvon’s thinkings when it comes to business

  • He employs people who are independent and lets them do what they have to do without any need to supervise.
  • He quite happily sees the benefits of having women in his workplace around 79% of his staff are women. He provides childcare facilities so he can keep his female employees for longer.
  • He tells his customers to buy less. Yes less!! you don’t need a separate pair of shorts for every sporting event. He wants his customers to think with a conscience just as Patagonia do as a company.
  • His staff are friends or Patagoniacs as they are called. He employs people he would like to go to dinner with. “Were surrounded by friends who could dress however they wanted, even barefooted. People ran or surfed at lunch, or played volleyball in the sandpit at the back of the building. The company sponsored ski and climbing trips”
  • He wrote a book called “Let my people go surfing“where he espouses the need to give your staff the freedom to do what they love to do. It makes for a connected and engaged workforce. We love the Patagonia way.
Behind all this is the strength to be able to allow your employees understand that they are trusted to do the right thing.  We spoke about this in the article on X and Y employees. Yvon is definitely a Y employer. If you can trust your staff to complete the tasks they are given then they should be allowed to enjoy the benefits of frisbee when the sun is shining or surfing when the waves are up. The fear is that your staff will take advantage of these opportunities to your detriment. The likelihood whatever you think it is,is probably true. Not only does Yvon trust his employees to do the right thing he also wants to ensure that Patagonia as a company do the right thing.
The Patagonia Mission statement is a testament to this
“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm,use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.”
Patagonia creates a happy workplace and it is working towards building a business that thinks with a conscience and also creates a happier world.

We can no longer do business without thinking of the consequences on the world we live in and the people who live here. The time to awaken is now.

Will Coffee and Apples make us happy at work?

30 Nov

I have just read an article from last Fridays Guardian  where journalist Graham Snowdon referred to a study on happiness within the workplace. It made the connection between happiness within the workplace and up to date technology a good desk and access to decent coffee.

According to research commissioned by office developers Goodman, the things that keep us most happy and motivated at work are both conceptually simple and reasonably cost-effective: namely, up to date computers, a desk for keeping personal things on, and access to decent coffee.

The simple things are always the best. Access to these items in themselves are a bonus to any office (some might even say a basic requirement) but discovering why our staff are happy requires that we delve a little deeper into why our staff keep turning up each day and being happy to be there.

Yes we do like shiny new computers and the best Italian coffees but If you want your staff to feel happy in the workplace they need to feel

  • That they have a meaningful contribution to the organization that they work for and have a say in the direction that the company is taking.
  • That the job that they have is engaging and they have a sense of fulfilment in their role.
  • That they are appreciated for what they do. We like to be praised for what we do. Not empty praise or praise for the sake of it. We need to really appreciate the people that work for and with us. When was the last time you let them know they mattered.
  • That enjoying coming to work is ok. Having fun in the workplace breaks up the routine and once again brings out a side of us we all love. Once it doesn’t hurt anyone you can be as wacky as you want to be. Try it some time.
  • That they are growing within your organization. We are creative ,inquisitive beings we like to learn. encourage your employees to take up a course in what ever they want to do. It does not have to be in a subject related to what they work at. It could be artistic, creative or based in logics or mathematics.  If it is what they want to do ir will only benefit you and them in the long run.
  • Trusted. I don’t mean security wise, that should be a given. I mean do you trust your staff to make the right decisions. We all make mistakes so be prepared to see some happen. Learn from it and move forward. As I spoke about in a previous blog. Ricardo Semler saw his company Semco grow once he was prepared to delegate responsibility and trust the decisions that his workers make. Go for it.

Access to Italian espresso and Apple computers are great plusses to any workplace. But if you hate where you work and what you do, no amount of coffee and Apple macs will change that.

Happiness at work comes from being engaged, feeling trusted, feeling appreciated,having control over what you do,enjoying turning up to where you work and apparently staplers!!! as Graham Snowdon says

Another interesting titbit from the Goodman survey concerns the vital importance of staplers on office morale. This is apparently particularly true in London, where one in 10 workers complain there are not enough to go around. In Scotland, curiously, there appears to something of a stapler surplus, with one in five saying they have too many of the things. Have the Scots been quietly stealing them all?

Happy days.

Delivering Wow!

21 Nov

One of the companies that I love to talk about when I present workshops is Zappos.com. I love companies that turn the nature of business as we know it on its head. One of the tenets we go by at Wake Up! is that “Nothing has to be the way you think it is” and Zappos do this very well. They are run by CEO Tony Hseih and he has an interesting outlook to the way Zappos is run and to the employees that are employed as part of the organization.

First of all what do Zappos do? They sell shoes and sneakers online throughout the United States. They have recently included clothing as part of their online sales stock.  Nothing too out of the world about that you might say. Lots of companies sell products online, including clothing. Where Zappos began to stand out was at the formative stages of their company structure when they had decided that values were going to be an integral part of the way the approached their market. I teach students the importance of values within not only our personal lives but also within business. Companies who have a clear identity of what their values are have a greater idea of where they are going. Values are our moral compass they can also be seen as our company’s compass too. Within Zappos they are clearly defined.

1. Deliver WOW Through Service
2. Embrace and Drive Change
3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
5. Pursue Growth and Learning
6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
8. Do More With Less
9. Be Passionate and Determined
10. Be Humble

I particularly like “Delivering Wow through Customer service” which they do with unscripted conversations at their call centre. All delivery through the United States is free which is no mean feat when you are talking 3,994 km from their warehouse in Kentucky to Seattle. If you do not like the sneakers that you purchased you have a 365 days to return them(once they are in the same state you received them) no quibble. I recently read of a customer who had contacted Zappos about returning a pair of shoes she had purchased from them. Customer service had noticed that they had still not received the shoes a few weeks after they had been contacted by the customer. When they decided to make contact with the customer they discovered that the customers mother had passed away and returning shoes was the last thing on her mind. Zappos said that they would take care of the shoes and duly sent UPS around next day to pick up the shoes. The woman was also surprised to discover that she had received a bouquet of flowers the following week with condolences from Zappos. That is customer service!!

The interview stage at Zappos has potential employees being asked “On a scale of 1-10 how weird are you?’ I am not sure about you but I might be weird, I might even be very weird but am I going to impart this information at an interview. I don’t think so. Unless it is Zappos that I am looking to be employed by. They want people who grade themselves high on the weird scale and are willing to admit it. The weirder the better. Workers can wear what they want to work and can decide to decorate their workplace in whatever manner they want. No better way to brighten up dull offices or dull souls.

Training lasts for 4 weeks where a salary is paid. On the Friday of your first week training with Zappos you will probably be asked how you enjoyed your first week with Zappos and then you will be offered $3000 to leave the company. If you don’t take up the offer this week you can avail of the offer the following week as it will be a choice you will be given each Friday of your training. Why? you ask. It makes sense to have you leave the organization at this stage rather than discovering that you are a poor fit for the company 6 months down the road when the company has invested more time and money into you. It also instills a great sense of belonging to the workers that are left, knowing that they have  all turned down the $3000 to be there.

Watch any of the videos of Zappos staff on Zappos.tv to see a happy engaged workforce that are excited about coming to work. In a world of substandard customer service that leaves us waiting on the end of phone lines for answers to queries that make us feel maybe we where the problem in the first place, Zappos is a welcome breath of fresh air. With a turnover of over $1billion a year, a committed workforce and customers who keep happily returning. We can learn a lot from thinking different.

Waking up the workforce

20 Nov

This is Wake Up!s Blog which is designed to inform companies and benefits of creating a work environment that your staff and you will be happy to turn up to each day. We have moved from the 1970’s and 80’s style of workplace(I hope) yet funnily enough I still come across them more frequently than I expect. Some offices are like walking back int a 70’s sitcom others can look very modern but are limited by an bygone way of thinking.

At the lollipop effect we look at companies that have done more than break the mould but have pushed our thinking within the workplace beyond Maslow and Mcgregor. We are here to let you know that “Your workplace does not have to remain the way it always has been” simple changes can affect your staffs motivation, their thinking and your bottom line.

We strive for democracy the world over. We celebrate our ability to vote in local and national elections. Some countries throughout the Middle East have experienced revolutions expressing the will to end dictatorships and embrace democracy. Yet we rarely work within a workplaces that mirrors the society we live in.

Here we can discuss the merits for providing a workplace that we are happy to turn up to each day.

Happy days



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