“When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change.” ~Wayne Dyer
I wish my first real boss had read the book Fish. It’s the story of Mary Jan Ramirez, a young widow who took a job managing the least productive and most negative department of First Guarantee Financial, in Seattle, Washington. In fact, the department was referred to as the “toxic waste dump” of the company.
One day she had an epiphany as she observed workers in “Pike Place Fish Market,”—people who had smelly, nasty jobs of cleaning, wrapping, cooking, and serving fish to an overflow crowd.
This team was having a great time and were the reason for the overflow crowd. She found the owner and began a several-month relationship during which she learned how to make the workplace both fun and productive.
My first real job was when I was a student at USC, studying computer science and game/app design and minoring in media communications. I took a part-time job with a small local consulting firm that handled digital marketing campaigns for small businesses—maintaining their blogs and their social media platforms, user testing designs and specific strategies, and so forth.
The owner of the firm was a sour man. He assigned tasks and deadlines to all of us, discouraged collaboration, and seemed only to come out of his office to “bark” at someone.
While the creativity portion of the work was personally rewarding, the office itself was a bleak, stark den of unhappy people. Fortunately, he was gone quite a bit, meeting with prospects and managing current ones (I don’t know how he made any sales—perhaps he had a split-personality), and we were like those bad children who came out to play when he left.
I was determined to make my workday more pleasant, and hopefully the days of my co-workers, so I began to add things to the environment. The result? We began to have some fun at work and, despite, the disapproving looks of Mr. Sour Man, he could not argue with success. Everyone was more productive.
If you are in such a situation, I urge you to take a look at the suggestions below. They really do work.
7 Strategies to Help You Transform Your Workday
You may actually like your work, and you may already feel that you are plenty productive; on the other hand, you may not really like your work that much and are the first one out the door when you workday is over. You can change that, however, by adding these seven easy elements.
1. Bring just a bit of fun to your workplace.
In the morning, while you have you coffee, get online and find a great joke. Type it up, make copies, get in early, and put it on everyone’s desk—anonymously.
If that’s not possible, post it on the inside doors of the restroom stalls or on the mirrors; post it in the lounge and by drinking fountains. Call it the joke of the day and do it every day. They will begin to look forward to it every morning and it will start their day, and yours, in a totally different way. This was my first “secret” activity.
2. Make someone else’s day.
Nothing complicated here. Notice what snacks or drinks you co-workers consume. Pick one, maybe even the sourest one, and present him/her with it.
Do this often—people will actually start to be nicer to each other and they may begin to emulate your behavior. I discovered that people do really want to “pay it forward.” When I did this for just a couple of people, they began to do it for others.
3. Hate your current task? Stop and do something fun.
Put in your headphones and dance; walk the halls and whistle. You’ll return with much better energy. Do this every hour or so, and you will actually work better and faster.
This was not always possible for me, because the office space was quite small. However, we had our own take on this.
We used our lunch hour for music and fun. Instead of running out of the place to escape for lunch, people began to bring their lunches and stay in, so that we could have our music, but also share our specific challenges and bounce ideas off of one another. Lunchtime became team-meeting time. I was only there for lunch two days a week, but it still happened when I was gone—huzzah!
4. Decorate you workspace.
For this, you have to lose a bit of inhibition perhaps. Do you like colorful balloons? Do it. If you work in a cubby, decorate the outside too—give your workers some incentive to get creative themselves. You can even hold a contest. We didn’t have any contests, but once I personalized my workspace, so did others. It does wonders for the whole atmosphere.
5. In the nice weather, have a parking lot picnic.
Do this once a month or so—bring your grill and have everyone else bring food to share. In the winter, cure those doldrums by organizing a themed lunch—everyone brings a dish.
We actually did have some parking lot barbeques, and relieved the receptionist/secretary so she could participate too. She became our biggest fan.
6. Put a team together to do good.
Surely there is a local charity organization that needs some volunteers—maybe Habitat for Humanity or a boys’ and girls’ club. Adopt some families at Christmas. One office team gave up an entire weekend and painted all of the classrooms in an inner city school.
The great things about these kinds of activities? Everyone feels really good about themselves, and co-workers begin to establish personal relationships that carryover into the workplace. With those kinds of relationships, you can ask for help when you need it without feeling like you are intruding or irritating someone else.
My fraternity was involved in Habitat for Humanity, and I managed to get several of my co-workers to come out for some of the projects. We developed strong relationships began to pitch in to help when one of us was “under the gun” and needed help.
7. Find inspiration from others.
There is a lot of good stuff in print out there. Visit a bookstore and browse through the sections on success and self-help. Pick up a couple of books that speak to making your workplace more enjoyable, including both mental and physical activities that will inspire you and that you can put into practice right away. I didn’t use any of these books, but for sure there have to be some more great ideas out there.
Accept the fact that you cannot change your boss or the tasks of your work right now. You may really dislike them and even look toward the day when you can make a change. But for right now, you have to be in the “now” right where you are. You have to be able to get up every day and look forward to going to work—that’s what attitude is all about.
If you can find things that will make your workplace more fun, you may be surprised that the tasks you hated actually “change” for you. That is what Wayne Dyer’s quote is all about.
For me, I chose a life as a freelancer because it suits my lifestyle choices. But I have never forgotten reading the book Fish and taking up the challenge to help transform a workplace.
Happy at work image via Shutterstock