Friday, September 14, 2012

Don't Forget the Joy

Work is, well, work. It's also an open secret that we're better workers when we have fun at work. We're more productive, we help the bottom line, and we're more likely to stay in a job longer if we enjoy our jobs. So let's roll up our sleeves and get to work, but don't forget the joy!

Some joy comes from the work itself. There is a thrill in solving a hard problem. Learning a new technique provides a quiet satisfaction. Finally understanding some concept - really understanding it! - puts a spring in my step. Looking at a demo or a customer report and knowing I built some feature they really love sends me home bragging. I know I'm not alone in quite simply loving what I do.

Other joy coms from the culture around the work. This is where your colleagues and your work environment come in. Joking around the coffee machine is just plain fun. Having your desk set up the way you like it - with your Star Wars figurines and footrest - makes the physical office more comfortable. We're people, after all, not automatons.

As an employer, there are things I can do to help make work more fun. Most of them aren't even very expensive! Consider these:

  • A training course - online or at a local university's extension school - for an employee who asks usually costs under $1000.
  • Letting someone go speak at a conference costs about 20 hours for prep and the cost of plane/hotel. (The conference itself is usually free for speakers.)
  • Letting the team choose a theme for sprint names and name their own sprints. Free and often hilarious.
  • Bringing in bagels or cookies or cake once or twice a month - either on a schedule or ad hoc, depending on your team's sense of routine - is surprisingly fun. Keeping snacks on hand accomplishes the same thing.
  • Don't do management by walking around. Be available and show up but don't hover. You don't want to be your employees' friend, but you don't want to be the heavy, either. Free, too.
Joy has a place at work. Encourage it.

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