You can call 2020 a lot of things, but joyful is not one of them. “There is a general sense that we never stop being in front of Zoom or interacting,” wrote HBS professor Raffaella Sadun in the Harvard Business Review. “It’s very taxing, to be honest.”
Source: “You’re Right! You Are Working Longer and Attending More Meetings,” Harvard Business School.
All the things we love about work, right?
As we look toward the future of work, technology—and a broad acceptance of remote work—offers up some hope that work can become joyful again, instead of a monotonous grind of Zoom meeting after Zoom meeting. As you think about your small business, ask yourself: can work actually be fun for you and your employees?
Prevailing wisdom says work can be fun—if you choose the right profession. In his famous 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, Steve Jobs said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”
If only. 90% of people report expecting to feel joy at work (no doubt from inspirational quotes like this one), but only 37% actually do. That’s because work is, well, work.
Inspirational quote aside, you can be truly satisfied at work if you’re able to feel harmony, impact, and acknowledgment, according to research. Employers need to facilitate a culture where employees feel like part of the team—where joy is part of day-to-day life at work, not just success.
Source: “Making Joy a Priority at Work,” Harvard Business Review.
Of course, there’s a lot about working from home that can be joyful, but switching to remote work has been anything but easy.
It starts with the space you have to work in. “Just like in any office space, even when you’re working from home, you want to begin with asking yourself, what kind of workspace do you want?” Marie Kondo told Apartment Therapy. “Visualize your overall goal, imagine how you like to start your day when working from home. I think those questions still apply, even when you’re not in the office.”
Kondo, in her book Joy at Work, recommends a few tidying tips to add more joy to your workday:
However, the success of some of Kondo’s tips requires a culture that facilitates them. “Many of us feel a degree of helplessness with regard to our jobs. We feel obliged to check emails in the evening, we feel obliged to spend evenings catching up on what we missed,” Bruce Daisley told Forbes. “We’re witnessing record burnout levels across the US—by some counts half of all office workers report feeling burned out, with even higher numbers in professions like teaching and healthcare. We need to find a way to bring balance.”
If your employees are constantly afraid that their managers don’t trust them, they’re not going to be able to set those boundaries. 32% of managers believe employees perform worse while working remotely, with 22% unsure, according to the Harvard Business Review. 41% of managers were also skeptical that employees would be productive long-term.
Source: “Remote Managers Are Having Trust Issues,” Harvard Business Review.
What’s ironic about this finding is that in study after study, remote employees are found to be more productive, not less. And it’s indicative of far deeper manager-employee issues than a shift to remote work.
To bring more joy into the workplace, employers need to:
Whether you’re embracing remote work, cultivating a hybrid approach, or hoping to return to in-person work full-time, think about a future where you’re excited to go to work. Now it’s up to you to make it happen for your employees.