Busywork: A guide to making work more fun, and avoiding work for work’s sake

Welcome to our series on classical novels, and relating them to the employee engagement. We hope you enjoy understanding a little bit more about how to engage employees, and build a company culture, and can use them to take away

In Oscar Wilde’s famous comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, the main characters are constantly concerned with maintaining their fictitious personas in order to keep up appearances and escape the social obligations upon which they are burdened. In many companies, employees will engage in this exact type of comedic behaviour to escape, which for the sake of this exercise we shall refer to as “busywork”.

 

“Busywork” is what happens when we take work too seriously

Busywork is defined as making work for work’s sake. The great author Franz Kafka became obsessed with this type of work in his writings. One of the most classical examples in his novel “Metamorphosis” involves a man who has been transformed into a bug, and yet his only concern for his day is how he goes about getting to work on time. Kafka’s novels were littered with references to Busywork, stemming from his belief that many of the processes that we as humans undergo in our day to day lives are only there to provide someone else a job. For instance, he believed that most bureaucracy was fundamentally meaningless, and simply moving a series of forms from one place to another, and then back again.

Franz Kafka himself worked within the insurance industry, and spent many of his days moving pieces of paper around his office. Kafka was able to distill the feeling that he felt working in insurance into his novels, eventually being donned the term “Kafka-esque”. Of course, we know that insurance itself is a very important part of society, but working in insurance, it can be hard to see that your work matters.

Busywork is what happens when everyone within a company takes their work too seriously. If a company culture does not allow for fun, employees will find things to do that may or may not assist existing company processes. Often this comes in the form of pretending to do work, but actually doing nothing. Not only is this type of work detrimental to the bottom line, but it is detrimental to the company culture.

How do you prevent busywork? Make work fun!

The best way to prevent busywork is to ensure that no matter what, under all costs, employees have a way to make their work fun. Facebook famously holds their own internal hackathons (as do Google). Twitter used to hold it’s own parties (until recently), and there are many, many other examples of companies that ensure that they have “fun” activities that are a stone throw away.

To prevent busywork, you first need to try to redefine what productivity is. Being productive doesn’t necessarily mean staying at the office until late, as getting a good night’s sleep can be just as effective. It takes a mature management team to be able to look at it, and if done right you just might find your overall productivity increasing!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

 

 

Five fun tips for employee engagement

Employee engagement needn’t be a difficult venture. There are plenty of small, effective and fun ways of motivating your employees to be more engaged in the workplace. These simple measures are also often quite inexpensive. It is well established that the dividends of investment in employee engagement exceed initial input many times over in terms of success and productivity. With the relative ease on instituting these programs, it really doesn’t make any sense to delay it any further, put these simple ideas into place today and reap the rewards!

  1.       Free lollies

Everyone loves a sweet treat! What is even more important than the token gift of thank-you lollies, is that you can accompany them with a personalised and funny message. There are literally hundreds of options to try out in your company. They needn’t even be lollies, you can offer encourage-mints, give coffee vouchers that say “thanks a latte!”, or even give out scented candles thanking your employees for being “scents-ational!” The possibilities are limitless! Check out this Pinterest article for more options. The personalised messages will give your employees a kick of humour to break up the work day, be inspired to be more engaged at work, and the touch of personal acknowledgement will help them feel more a part of the team.

  1.       Free fruit

The provision of healthy snacks should be more regular occurrence. If you have a weekly fruit box delivered, this says to your employees that you care about their health. If you aren’t already using a fruit box delivery service, you should really take advantage of this small way of letting your employees know you care

  1.       Fitness programs

A further way to let your employees know you care about their wellbeing, is to offer free or subsidised fitness programs. Healthy employees are less stressed, and are ultimately more engaged in the workplace, with less days of absenteeism. You can subsidise a gym membership, set aside an office space for yoga classes, or even just organise a simple office jogging group.

  1.       Ice breakers

Yes, ice breakers can be the worst. Who can think of one fun thing to say about themselves? I mean who is to say what your target audience will think is fun? And what about the self-confidence that requires?  But I’m not talking about the kind of ice breaker which requires you to sit in a circle, say your name, your job title and department, and one fun thing about yourself. The best kinds of ice breakers are office games. These shouldn’t be too complex, and your box of Cards Against Humanity is probably not appropriate here. Think charades, celebrity heads and scavenger hunts.

  1.       Team activism

Getting your employees involved in a volunteering opportunity can be infinitely useful for employee engagement. It helps them socialise, feel part of a team, and feel that they are part of something bigger than themselves. Find a cause that your team is passionate about and sign them up! Not only will this benefit your employee engagement, you can also advertise that your team is involved and positively influence the brand of your company in the eyes of your clients!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Maximising employee efficiency through creating a fun working environment

Positive and vibrant company culture has become an increasingly sought-after attribute. Not only are employees in the search of a company that will develop their skill-sets,  challenge them professionally and remunerate them accordingly, employees are on the hunt for companies that can promise a vibrant team of like-minded individuals. Companies which can offer this strong positive company culture enjoy many benefits from investment in this principle. Company culture has significant implications in all other areas of company performance, leading to efficiency and productivity by employees at work, through increased engagement. Furthermore company values can extend into the brand which consumers associate with your company name, making your product more attractive and competitive on the market. One only needs to think of companies like Google,  Apple and Twitter, and immediately positive emotions of fun and enjoyment spring to mind. This is what creating a fun and vibrant culture can do for you!

Promote Fun

Don’t lose sight of the need to create opportunities for fun and enjoyment in the workplace. Take note of the general office vibe, and if it is suffering, ensure to give employees a break for a chance of some enjoyment. The team will be friendlier, more connected, and more engaged with their work. This doesn’t have to be difficult, it can easily be achieved by incentivising goals with prizes or footing the bill for happy hour occassionally.

Have a clear direction

One simple action to avoid a lot of frustration for employees is to ensure that the overall company direction is clear. The negative effects of a lack of clear direction have wide-ranging consequences such as decreased motivation and general unhappiness. As a leader, create a clear set of goals and ensure they guide both your decisions and those of your employees. This will create a more cohesive team, and provide a source of motivation and pride in the company values.

Encourage autonomy

This may seem contradictory to my last point, but in fact, greater autonomy for employees breeds greater motivation and greater productivity of the company in turn. Allowing employees autonomy does not mean that your company will be anarchy. If employees have a clear sense of direction of the company goals, they will use these to define their decisions, and they will make decisions as if leadership made them. Do you want one brain in control of the company and a bunch of mindless drones?  or do you want a team of highly engaged, thinking, motivated employees who are all using their intelligence to better the company? I think you know the answer.

Engender a culture of recognition

One further aspect of a strong and positive culture is a focus on recognition. It is well known that incentivising company goals makes productivity increase dramatically. But one way to make productivity reach even higher extremes, is to recognise your employees’ achievements publicly in front of their coworkers. Even better is to encourage your employees to acknowledge their coworkers good works by having a weekly shout out, or allowing employees to gift each other free coffees via workplace chat apps like slack.

Through creating a culture of fun, recognition, and free-thinking, Your employers would be more motivated more engaged and more efficient at work. Achieve success through a culture of fun, facilitated by recognition and affirmations.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

How to Encourage Employee Pride in every small action: Lessons from Japanese soccer fans

You may have heard about the recent courteous behaviour of a Japanese fans of the World Cup in soccer. After their record win against Colombia in Russia, a feat not previously achieved by an Asian team against any of the teams in the soccer mad South American Nations, fans not only celebrated the win, but stayed behind afterwards to clean up the stadium. Their Culture of Pride has been contagious recently also, with the fans of the Senegal team recently also cleaning up the stadium when they defeated Poland. This level of pride in every small action is seldom seen, but it represents an inspirational attitude.

Translating this into the workplace

Imagine if your employees were this proud of their actions. If they represented your company at each conference and training session with as much pride in every action they made, not only would their engagement in their work be dramatically increased,  but the reputation of your company would be superlative, amongst competitors and clients alike.

But this change is possible. It is possible for the employees of your company to take great pride in each and every small action they make.

Is it easy to create a culture of pride in your workplace by following the five step PRIDE model (1):

P: Create a positive working environment

R: Recognise, reinforce and reward individual efforts

I: Involve and engage everyone

D: Develop the potential of your workforce

E: Evaluate and hold managers accountable

 

Positive working environment:

The positivity of your workplace environment starts with you. when communicating with employees it is  imperative to use positive language. Don’t criticize, use constructive feedback. Have an open-door policy to keep the lines of communication open and the rapport effective

A culture of recognition:

This is the backbone of company Pride. Ensure you reward your employees for their efforts in public so that they are acknowledged by their coworkers for their good work as well as just you.

Involvement and engagement:

Discuss the possibility of company actions with all of your employees by holding an open meeting for everyone to brainstorm ideas.  For example, Sony’s Corporate research department hosts an annual “Ideas Expedition”, when scientists and engineers display and demonstrate  new products that they are working on to all of Sony’s employees. This creates a culture of innovation throughout all levels of the organisation.

Professional development and learning:

The benefits of training your employees and helping them to develop their careers are well established. The most cost effective way of doing this is to hold mentor programs, which benefit not only the mentee but frequently help the mentors learn as well (2).

Evaluate your management:

Metrics can help with this: in measuring the rate of employee turnover and comparing departments you can figure out which managers are struggling to support their employees. Don’t use a punitive  approach here, reward good managers and help the poorly performing manages to improve the performance through constructive criticism and training.

Following these simple steps you can create a strong culture of pride in your in workplace that can rival any Japanese soccer fan. You will not have to wait long to reap the benefits of increased employee engagement, greater client interest and reputation amongst competitors.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

  1. Smith G. Creating pride: what great managers do to improve retention [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2018 June 25]. Available from: https://www.businessknowhow.com/manage/pride.htm
  2. Gordon SP, Maxey S. How to help beginning teachers succeed. Adolescence. 2000;35(140):818.

A guide to using humour in the workplace, using famous workplaces from Netflix Shows

All of us remember a particular job that we had which had a more relaxed attitude, jokes abounded and the camaraderie we felt helped us pass the hours just that bit more quickly. So popular, is the idea of humour at work, that any workplace depicted in television has a good dose of humor accompanying it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

For example, anyone who has seen the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine will know of the hilarious antics that take, place in the police station that the captain not only puts up with but also joins in with. However, if everyone isn’t in on the joke, the situation could be more damaging than it is helpful. This article seeks to explain how you can take of advantage of the productivity which comes with encouraging jokes in the workplace, without causing offence to some of your employees.

Having a good laugh in the workplace has been shown to benefit creativity and productivity in the workplace. Yet, some employers make the mistake of stifling humor, seeing it as a distraction from getting work done. This is definitely a mistake, as humour has been shown to increase productivity, rather than hampering it.

Similarly, the role of humour in the workplace is hardly ever taken seriously by researchers, yet the work that does focus on this area shows overwhelmingly positive effects (1). Humour generally has a hard time being taken seriously, only tragedies being considered truly great pieces of literature. However, if you want a seriously great film, I recommend the hilarious dark comedy “the Seven Psychopaths” starring Colin Farrell. Don’t make the same mistake of these researchers and literature critics, encourage humour in your workplace to benefit productivity today!

The Office

While humour can have all of these great benefits in the workplace, it can go awry quickly. Poor jokes, especially sexist, homophobic or racist jokes can only serve to alienate certain members of the staff.

One need look no further for an example than the seriously awkward situation on “The Office”, when in the process of making a point about racial discrimination, the manager, Michael Scott gives the role of “Black” to Stanley (who is a black man). To combat this, understand that styles of humour can be broken down into:

  • affiliative humour (when you laugh with others)
  • aggressive humour (jokes that are made at the expense of others)  
  • self-enhancing humour (in which one attempts to cheer oneself up)
  • self-defeating humour (in which one uses, or allows others to use negative humour at their expense)

Employees can be educated on these four types of humour styles to understand that affiliative humour and self-enhancing humour are the most acceptable forms. Additionally, ensuring that work behaviour and anti-harassment policies are up-to-date and communicated to employees can be helpful. Once these steps are in place, feel free to encourage as much humour as possible, to the benefit of both your employees, and the bottom line.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

  1. Holmes J, Marra M. Having a laugh at work: how humour contributes to workplace culture. J Pragmat. 2002;34(12):1683-1710.

8 Funny employee awards

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that humor is good for you. In fact, having a good laugh has been shown to benefit your mental well-being, your cardiovascular health and your creativity and productivity in the workplace.

Humour physically releases endorphins in the brain, chemicals which improve mood and decrease stress. Studies have shown this effect to be so potent that pain tolerance in increased when a person is laughing. In the workplace, this improved mood and reduced stress translates into greater creativity and reduced productivity, through reduced absenteeism, improved sense of belonging to a team, and generally through the association of work with more positive emotions.

So to amp up the levels of comedy in the office, why not present funny and satirical awards to your employees? Present at a Friday afternoon end of week wrap-up meeting for a little tongue and cheek humour, allow them to laugh at themselves and their coworkers and let out some of that office tension pent up from the week.

Funny Employee Awards

Here are 8 examples of some great gag awards below:

  1. The Golden Shovel: awarded to the member of the team that digs themself into the biggest hole
  2. The Academy Award: best acting in the office, awarded to the best performer when it comes to a sales pitch or product demonstration
  3. The Pacifier: given to the person who resolves office conflicts, or to the person who has the biggest dummy spits. If you want to get even more humour out of this one, present both awards on alternating weeks, and let them guess what they got the award for!
  4. The Carl Sagan Space-Time continuum award: for the employee who doesn’t have the best grip of time
  5. The Loch Ness award: whenever you’re looking for them, they’re nowhere to be found, and you’re not even convinced that they work here but play along anyway.
  6. The Big Stinker: for the person who eats smelly food. Also could be for something else less pleasant…
  7. Office Mum: whoever is taking care of everyone around the office, male or female. Could also be the paired with “Office Baby”. 
  8. The Golden Paperclip: for the one who holds everything together when it’s all falling apart. Also references the Microsoft Office paperclip in Windows 98 that is always around and asking for assistance, only to be shut down moments later.

Providing some stress relief in the form of humour to employees is essential in the modern workplace. This is especially true if the work is physically, mentally or emotionally taxing in some way, as most workplaces tend to be. Dealing with this work, day in, day out can lead to burnout, but it is these short intervals or humour that break up the day which can build resilience in our employees. It is quite easy to get overwhelmed by stress, and become overly emotional and down. The best response that we have when it comes to dealing with these heightened states is to let it all out with some laughter.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Chicago city skyline

5 Great Locations for Annual Conventions and Corporate Team Building

Teamwork and camaraderie are extremely important components for a successful and productive business. A recent study uncovered that the primary reason an employee leaves an organization is the lack of engagement and that the cost of filling the position can be up to twice the employee’s annual salary. The study also found that a shocking 70 percent of today’s workforce reports being disengaged at work. 

In today’s competitive market, companies can’t afford to risk the high costs associated with a disengaged workforce. Employee engagement is therefore crucial to the success of every company.

One way to increase the focus and motivation of your staff is to offer rewards and recognition. Many companies are recognizing the importance of engagement and choosing to plan fun retreats for their teams. This tactic is highly effective as it shows appreciation and is an opportunity to get everyone together to discuss goals and strategies. 

If you’re considering a corporate team-building conference, try one of these exotic locations.

 

Miami, Florida

Miami is a city that takes pride in its diversity. This is especially true when it comes to hosting corporate and conventional events. As a city that constantly grows and reinvents itself, Miami offers plenty of opportunities for business travelers. Whether you’re looking for a convention center or a special event venue, the possibilities are endless.

The breathtaking culture of Miami, combined with beautiful nature and exuberant nightlife, means that everyone will find something that suits their individual taste. Provide your staff with a memorable bonding experience by visiting sporting events, such as the Miami Open, or taking a sunset cruise along the Intracoastal Waterway.

Although a very attractive choice for conventions and team building, Miami has one significant disadvantage. With the average rate for a hotel room being over $200, Miami is relatively expensive. The good news is that you can find cheaper hotels and also get additional discounts depending on the number of people on your team.

 

Honolulu, Hawaii

Treat your staff to a luxurious outing in sunny Honolulu, Hawaii. It’s obvious that this Pacific state offers the best weather and outdoor adventures imaginable, but it also serves as the state capital and is home to the Hawaii Convention Center. The center hosts thousands of group retreats each year and boasts a knowledgeable staff prepared to help with all your planning needs. Hawaii’s hospitality and tourist industry is booming and the state’s gorgeous weather makes it a desirable location year-round.

Outside of the convention, your staff can enjoy the scenic natural beauty of Hawaii or visit one of the city’s many popular tourist destinations. Plan a tour of the Dole pineapple plant, hike the famous Diamond Head crater or schedule a traditional Hawaiian luau event.

Hawaii may be more expensive than other destinations but the natural beauty, adventures and memories of the event will be remembered for years to come.

 

Las Vegas, Nevada

The so-called “City of Sin” is an extremely fun and cost-effective location for a large team building event or conference. Vegas has many large meeting venues that can easily accommodate large groups. Most locations have experienced event planners that can assist with all the details and reduce the amount of planning required ahead of time. The airport is just three short miles away from the main strip and there are plenty of inexpensive transportation options to and from the airport. 

A trip to Vegas offers plenty of employee engagement opportunities in addition to being extremely affordable. The average cost of a hotel in Vegas can range anywhere from $60-$80 which is one-third the cost of many other high-end locations. In addition, most venues will offer catering, lodging, and entertainment packages dramatically reducing your cost per employee. 

 

Chicago, Illinois

Chicago is yet another great convention destination. Its central location and Midwestern culture provide everything you need for a solid team-building experience. Chicago is one of only a handful of cities that offers two convenient airport locations. In addition, Chicago’s extensive public transit system ensures that guests are able to quickly and affordably reach their final destinations.

The city of Chicago is home to the nation’s largest convention center. The center is located downtown in close proximity to some of the city’s finest dining and entertainment options. Patrons can get almost anywhere by foot and should be encouraged to explore some of the city’s top attractions including Navy Pier, the Lincoln Park Zoo, and the Chicago Art Museum. Encourage your staff to take a quick break to grab a Chicago-style pizza or pop in to one of the city’s many ethnic restaurants for lunch. After hours, organize an outing at one of the city’s many sports arenas. Chicago is home to professional soccer, basketball, baseball, and football. Overall, the nation’s third largest city offers everything you’ll need for a successful convention.

 

New York, NY

New York is the business capital of the world and serves as the nation’s leader in finance, retail and media. The aura of the nation’s largest city attracts thousands of professional conventions each year. Your staff can fly into one of two conveniently located airports (JFK or LaGuardia). From here, your team can quickly and easily grab a cab into the heart of the city, taking in the sites and the city skyline along the way.

New York City offers endless entertainment, dining, and cultural experiences. Plan a trip to the historic Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty or catch a game at one of the city’s two major ball fields. Additional entertainment options include Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park and the iconic Empire State Building. For lunch, visit Grand Central Station food court or grab a hot dog from one of the city’s infamous street vendors. No matter which attractions you choose to visit, the Big Apple will be a major hit with your crew.

These are just a few of the many popular convention destinations in the United States. Whatever destination you choose for your business travel, make sure to bond with your team. Also, planning a retreat should not be seen as a cost, but rather as a major investment in the future of your company. Remember that employees are your company’s most valuable asset and employee engagement should therefore be one of your main business goals.

 

Author Bio: Jill Phillips is a freelance writer from Buffalo, NY. She is an aspiring entrepreneur and tech enthusiast, who loves to share her insight on various topics. When she is not writing, Jill enjoys taking photos and hiking with her dog. Connect with Jill via Twitter @jillphlps