Tag Archives: happy at work

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.

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.

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).

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.

%d bloggers like this: