Tag Archives: happy staff

Life at Google Paris- not bad at all!

17 Jun

We don’t all have the same funds as some organisations but the general idea of creating an environment that will garner happier, healthier( maybe the free food could be a problem here) and more energised staff should be the goal of every organisation today.

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.



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


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.

Lessons for living- Wake Up! To You!

7 Sep

The most important person in your life is guess who? You!!
Remember that old adage if you can’t look after yourself than what good are you other people.
Traveling on airplanes we are always told that if the flight encounters trouble always apply your oxygen mask first before you tend to your kids.
Sounds selfish doesn’t it.
It’s the exact opposite, if you can’t breathe you are hardly going to be able to have the energy required to help your children when they need you most.
This is the same for all relationships that you encounter. If you don’t take care of yourself the relationship will be affected adversely on some level.
If you find it difficult to love yourself you will ultimately find it difficult to love someone else because you find fault within yourself and cannot understand how someone could love someone you don’t love yourself.Eventually you will slowly dismantle your relationship through feelings of unworthiness. Weird isn’t it!
If through abuse of your health you find that you struggle to be the parent your child would love you to be then make a conscious change.

What do you do then?
Spend some time on you and then you will be surprised how people around you react to the new confident you.

  • Think of one thing that you always wanted to do in life but you where afraid to do ?
  • Ask yourself if life had no obstacles such as time or money or commitments what is the one thing that you would love to do?
  • Commit to spending time on whatever it is that you would love to do.

If you spent twice a week concentrating on this dream. You would be guaranteed a different outlook to your life within a year or less. We are only truly happy when we spend time on activities and pleasures that make our heart sing. As my last post 5 regrets to avoid told us it is too late in the last stages of our lives to discover we regret having spent so much time on activities that we never enjoyed. Happiness is a choice it is up to you to decide if you want it.

“Life should be fun. Happiness should flow freely”

Wake up! to You!

What connects us to others

17 Jul

Paul Zac has spent some time researching the effects of Oxytocin on our relationships with our fellow man. Paul is one of the leading pioneers in the field of Neuroeconomics.

Oxytocin to those that are not familiar with it, is sometimes called the “Love hormone”. It is present in Mothers breast milk and helps to create a bond between mother and child. It is also produced during sex between two people leaving the afterglow that is felt after sexual activity between two people who know each other that can last for hours. In short oxytocin connects people with others.

Paul Zak ran experiments were oxytocin levels were tested before and after individuals watched a video of a father and his four year old son who had terminal brain cancer. Oxytocin levels spiked in participants after watching the video. The change in oxytocin predicted their feelings of empathy. It is empathy that makes us connect with other people. It’s empathy that makes us want to help other people.

Oxytocin is also produced in situations where trust is garnered. The Trust game is a good example of this. Pairs of participants communicate together via computer terminals. They have never met before and are not aware of who the other person is. Both person A and person B are aware of the rules of the game. Person A is provided with £10 and is asked to send some of it electronically to person B. The motivation for person A as the rules stipulate is the knowledge that any money sent to person B will triple in value. Whereupon person B will have the option of sending some of it back as a thankyou.  You would think that according to rational behaviour Person B acting selfishly has no reason to give any money back and if person A knows this he would be wise not to send any over in the first place.

Yet in trials 90% of A people send the money over and get this …95% of people send the money back. Analysis of Oxytocin levels in the bloodstream reveals that by sending money to Person B, person A is giving a sign of trust and being on the receiving end of a sign of trust causes our oxytocin levels to increase motivating more generous behaviour in return.

So we know that higher levels of oxytocin in our system create a greater level of trust. We are more likely to open up our wallets and give to others once we feel trusted and our oxytocin levels have risen. We also see it in commercials for products we buy or from companies we buy from. Have you ever wondered why large corporations like Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Tesco’s have happy rinky dink tunes associated with their adverts alongside cute little worlds and animations that they have created. It is all designed to increase your oxytocin levels and build a level of trust between you and their brand.

Oxytocin has other benefits rather than just making the world a more pleasant place by rewarding you if you trust me but also by reducing blood pressure, helping us to relax and also reducing those dangerous cortisol levels we build up once we are stressed. It also promotes growth and healing and has anti anxiety effects. Unfortunately it is corrupted by high levels of testosterone which might equate for the lack of empathy and unselfish love and generosity that is experienced on the stock market floors around the world.

How do we naturally release oxytocin into our system? We know we can nasally inhale oxytocin into our systems  through inhalers which produces feelings of trust, connectedness and love. But what works naturally? Massage, dancing and even praying are all contributors to raised levels of oxytocin all activities that are enjoyable and easy to partake in. My favourite is simply through…… hugging. Yep apparently up to 8 hugs a day is a great contributor to raising feelings of connectedness, empathy, love and generosity all the values that would make this world a more wonderful home.

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.

A healthy workforce are also a happy workforce.

26 Nov

I spent the summer working with pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp and Dohme recently. We have provided them with a fitness and nutrition course. It is a chance for the staff to find a level of fitness that they might not have experienced before and in the process lose or add weight. At the end of the day it is not just about fitness it’s more than that.

When we had finished each evenings session the smiling faces where not just a result of the relief that the hour of exercise was over or the fact that I kept reminding everyone that most people were sitting on the couch watching soaps, while we were staring at the sky doing sit ups and thanking life for being so good to us ( you gotta make it fun). It was the feeling that something difficult had been accomplished and more than that, it was the release of feel good hormones(Endorphins) into our bodies that change our mood to a more positive one than we have had before. This is why exercise is so good for us. It is more than the exercise it is the benefits to our mood and well being. Try it some time when your mood is a little low. Partake in twenty or thirty minutes of good exercise, I mean a vigorous walk,run, workout or a team game. Pause afterwards to gauge the way you feel. You will see a difference!!.

Exercise is great but it is important that you inject some fun into it, even when you set goals. One of the goals we set was to run a 5km  by the end of the programme. There is a 5kmrun called Runamuck(which speaks for itself)  which is basically a very long assault course with over 1,000 participants. Lots of mud, music, people in fancy dress and tons of fun. These are goals we like. If you don’t like cycling then don’t cycle. If you don’t like jogging alone then find a team sport. Just make that exercise fun.

Merck are doing the right thing by their staff by promoting a healthy active lifestyle but they are also contributing to their positive mental health without setting out to do this. More companies should do this. We at Wake Up! have put together programmes that can make your staff feel better about themselves not just physically but also mentally. A happy workforce is not only productive but also more creative, less prone to take sick leave,and more likely to stay committed to your organization, resulting in lower staff turnover levels. Not a bad result!!.

If you are an employer, think what have you done lately that has made your employees feel happier and better about themselves. Think of how your employees would feel if they understood that you cared about how they felt. The activity can be small but the results will be much bigger than you expected.

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