For the last year, I’ve been laser-focused on creating more joy at work. In fact, the idea of creating joy outside of work would never have occurred to me had I not been searching for my own.
Over the last three years, I’ve watched our revenues triple, our payroll expenses skyrocket by 500% and my personal joy value plummet. Long-gone are the days when going to work meant I could roll up my sleeves and get down to the business of creating great marketing content for my clients. In its place, a plethora of joy-sucking tasks like daily HR meetings, legal calls and conversations upon conversations about work-life balance quickly replaced my joy. With this workload on my plate, it’s no wonder my creative soul was in despair. I’m a writer, for goodness’ sake. How did my work and life end up here?
When I examined my happiest days at work throughout my career, I soon realized they weren’t the days I was making the most money. Instead, they were the ones when my creative talents were used fully by my organization. Only then could the full breadth of my abilities be set free and used for the greater good.
The Currency Of Joy
So today, joy is the currency by which I measure my success. In this world of wireless connections, never-ending emails and Instagram likes and shares, I’d somehow been misled to believe that if I didn’t strive harder, do more or stay fully engaged with my company, then I’d miserably fail. What I learned was that, for me, the reverse was true: It was only when I took a much-needed break from the life I’d tethered myself to that I came to realize this simple truth.
After taking a complete all-hands-off 90-day break from work, I realized how ridiculously burned out I’d become. During that much-needed time off, it became clear that I was risking my health and sanity for the success of our organization by taking on work I was not wired to do.
So, in an effort to reclaim more joy in my days, I focused on these five simple things to redefine workplace success:
1. Punch the clock.
Take a break and go home. I mean it. Really go home. The work will be there, I promise. And by not engaging after-hours, you’ll show up more vibrant, rested and focused the next day. By committing to run an organization that does not require 24/7 accessibility, we’ve been able to attract clients and talent whose values reflect our own.
We enforced an after-hours email policy that prohibits our employees from engaging in email after 7 p.m. on weekdays and on weekends. As a result, we have all been able to benefit from the downtime needed to refresh, reconnect and recharge our creative batteries.
2. Find your peeps.
Finding people at work who get you, think like you, or with whom you share complementary talents and gifts, allows your contributions to your organization to be greater, resulting in increased creativity and higher productivity.
So today, instead of saying “yes” to everything I cando, I now only commit to those things only I can do. In any given decision making moment, ask yourself, “Is this something that only I can do?” If the answer is no, delegate the task and assign it to the person most likely to be energized by the work. In the end, they win, you win and your organization and clients will be happier.
3. Bring your true self to work.
I am amazed at how much pretending goes on day in and out at work. If you consider that you spend more time in life at work than you do at home with friends and family, it becomes clear that pretending to be someone you’re not wears on the soul.
Finding your voice is as important at work as it is outside of work. For me, that looks like blogging, writing and sharing my story with others. For my employees, it means they are supported in the work they do outside of their 9-to-5 commitments at Communiqué USA. So whether they’re running nonprofits, meeting kids at the bus stop or freelancing, they have space in their lives to live, work and play.
4. Be your team’s cheerleader.
It baffles me when leaders lose sight of the fact that they work as much for their employees as they do their clients. If you aren’t taking a vested interest in celebrating your team’s great work and sharing in their successes and wins, then you may be, in fact, diminishing workplace joy.
By recognizing organizational effort, even if it’s just sending a thank-you note or stopping by to give someone on your team a word of encouragement, you have the ability to create an environment that can inspire the best in others, thereby fueling your own personal fun factor.
5. Take a vacation.
Yeah, I said it! Take a vacation. I don’t care if it’s for three days or three weeks. Stress is a killer, and when you don’t take time to unplug, detox and recharge, then life has a funny way of showing up and making you sit your butt down.
This has happened to me too many times to count, so take my word for it — there’s no virtue in having months of saved up vacation days that roll over every year. On your deathbed, no one will applaud how many days you didn’t go on vacation.
After my 90-day hiatus, my team grew, I grew and I learned that our organization was healthier when I wasn’t hogging all of the work. What would your work life look like if you redefined how you measure workplace success? Why don’t you plan a mental health day and find out?