In my industry, the workload can often be a bit intense.
While it’s not always, or even regularly, the case, there has been a fair share of late nights. Deadlines and client expectations shift, and sometimes you have to stay a couple of hours late for the good of both the company and your team.
Despite those late nights, I actually have fun when I’m working, even when I’m working late. A good amount of laughs and plenty of memories have come from some of the late nights I’ve spent with teammates working toward a deadline. I understand that this is a bit odd. I’ve spent time thinking about what makes a normally mundane or even depressing thing — working long hours — bearable and even enjoyable.
Building an Enjoyable Workplace
It comes down to the unique dynamic of my team, and the management style and team-building skills of my boss. These are a few components of an enjoyable workplace that almost anyone can apply, regardless of their industry.
Making Work Meaningful
Team members are motivated when there is meaning applied to work. When a simple task becomes a mission, or when it holds some greater weight or importance beyond the mere completion of the task, one is often more motivated to see the job through. For me, projects are often enjoyable when I feel that there is some greater cause behind the individual tasks I’m assigned. I don’t mean a divine purpose or anything like that, but rather an opportunity to learn something. I’m motivated when I get to learn a new skill, have a new insight, or develop a new way of looking at work or the world.
I credit my manager for her ability to find and assign tasks that individual teammates will find meaningful. It’s a testament to her leadership ability that’s she able to know each member of the team so well. Because of her knowledge of our interests and working styles, she’s able to recognize which tasks may hold the greatest personal meaning for individual team members.
For example, she knows that I find meaning in learning new things, uncovering new knowledge, and discovering new ways of looking at things. So I’m often assigned research-based tasks. Beyond research, I’m also responsible for relaying these new learnings to the rest of the team. My boss knows that I find meaning in learning and in conveying what I learn, and she regularly puts me in a position to do that.
When one can find personal meaning in the work they do, they’ll often be more efficient when it comes to completing that work. They’ll also find the work less mundane — they may even find it enjoyable.
Making Connections Beyond Work
To use a cliché, a “work hard, play hard” culture is something my industry is known for fostering. My company is no different, and I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing.
My team has “outings” a couple of times a week. While this occasionally takes the form of an off-the-clock happy hour, it’s more often a walk around the block or lunch at a nearby restaurant.
My team is fairly knowledgeable about each other’s personal lives. We aren’t friends, per se — coworkers, no matter how close, always occupy a strange gray area. However, we do know about each other’s family lives, personal struggles, likes, dislikes, and idiosyncratic senses of humor. Most importantly, we all genuinely like each other, and we’re all invested in each other’s professional wellbeing.
I think a unique thing about my team is that we’ve all “bought in,” so to speak. We all recognize that the team is working for something greater than the individual. We genuinely want to support each other. We genuinely want to see each other succeed. We want those things because we’re aware of the struggles, both personal and professional, each other has been through.
Work, for me, is often enjoyable because I never feel alone. I never feel afraid to ask questions or make myself vulnerable because I have a close, even special bond with those with whom I work.
Showing Appreciation Openly and Often
My team, and my boss, especially, are huge proponents of showing praise often and openly.
Work can become absolutely demoralizing when you feel like you aren’t adequately valued or recognized. My boss came from previous jobs that were soul-crushing. She had never felt real camaraderie. She never felt her work had meaning, and she received little to no praise for her efforts. When she came to my company and was put in a management position, she used her experience as a guide of what to avoid as she built her team.
The result? I feel valued at my job like I’m more than just a cog in a vast and very complicated machine. I feel like my effort isn’t wasted. As a result, I’m willing to put in effort on whatever project I happen to be working on.
Regular praise and recognition make one feel good. Praise makes one feel that they’ve accomplished something. Accomplishments are always enjoyable and memorable, no matter how small they may be. Workplaces can often be devoid of praise, and that doesn’t bode well for the mental health or productivity of workers.
What are the Benefits of Making Work Enjoyable?
Creating a workplace that’s enjoyable and meaningful isn’t easy. Honestly, it’s much easier to go through the motions, clock your hours, and leave. Why, then, should a team leader — and team members, for that matter — go through the effort? What benefits come from a more enjoyable, more meaningful work dynamic? I can personally think of two fundamental benefits, both of which feed into each other.
Greater employee retention: When people enjoy their work and the people they work with, they’re more likely to stay at a company. This is especially true if they feel their work has meaning, and if the work seems integral to their growth as a person and as a professional.
Better employee retention, of course, begets greater efficiency and growth for the company as a whole.
A transformation of overall company culture: Greater employee retention is a benefit, but one must think of the types of employees who are choosing to stick around.
Theoretically, they’re employees who find their work meaningful and at least somewhat enjoyable. They’ve probably received ample praise for their efforts, and they’re more than happy to pass it on to subordinates. Moreover, coming from a culture of teamwork and mutual support, they’d be genuinely invested in the growth of new team members.
Creating an Enjoyable Workplace
When a company or team focuses on fostering enjoyment and meaning in the workplace, they’ll attract and retain employees who want to perpetuate that culture.
Are you part of a close-knit team at work? Are you the leader of such a team? If so, what steps have you taken to make work as enjoyable and meaningful as possible for your team?
Have you put team members in a position to derive greater meaning from their work? Have you encouraged team members to get to know each other as peers, and not just as coworkers? Do you lump in a healthy amount of praise along with your constructive criticism? If so, it sounds like you’re on the way to building an enjoyable, supportive work environment for your team.
Work is not always fun in the traditional sense, but team leaders have the power to make those eight (or more) hours in the office enjoyable and meaningful. Keep that in mind next time you’re in charge of a team.