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.

 

 

Love your work: Having small company culture as a big company

There is a famous story once spoken about NASA. Upon his visit to the Houston Mission Control, then President John F. Kennedy saw a man scrubbing the floors vigorously. Upon being questioned of his motives, the man simply replied “I’m putting a man on the moon”.
It goes without saying that often small companies have much better culture than a big one. To do this you need to understand your work matters, have a mission focus and build big.

The difficulty in building a company for growth while maintaining its culture can be something akin to trying to run along a tightrope. For those of you who have done slack-lining, you may understand how difficult this is!

So the question remains, how do you maintain your small company ethos at a big company?

Your work matters

The hardest part about working at a big company is understanding that no matter how large the company, your work matters. It’s easy to feel like you are a cog in a machine when sitting in a confined cubicle, and by extension, it’s even easier to feel like neither you nor your work matters.

The truth is, as the great entrepreneur Richard Branson once said “a company is just a group of people, so you need to treat them like one”. The Virgin ethos applies all the way down to the furthest employees from the core. Put simply, treating people like both they and their work matter is a sure fire way to make sure your company grows while still being positioned for maintaining your culture.

Mission focus

It goes without saying that having a mission focus for your organisation is incredibly important if you want to keep your small company ethos.

Big companies can often get caught up in one thing and one thing alone, money. More sales, bigger deals, better metrics, operational efficiency become the norm, and the core mission goes out the window.
Smaller companies usually do this type of thing really well. They’ll start by proposing a mission statement that goes above and beyond the usual idea of focusing on money. Money is not the goal at a smaller company, money is the outcome. For smaller companies, performance become the goal.
Having a focus on the mission statement at heart can help keep your company culture balanced, ensuring that people don’t get over-excited when things are going well, and don’t get too down when things are going poorly.

Build Big

The hardest part about being in a large company is being so focused on increasing optimal efficiency of an existing product. This is where “the rot” sets in. Company culture goes down the drain when a company loses its ambition.
To stop this, it’s important to recognise that often the only thing that separates a small company from a big one is its ambition. By having this ambition and drive to constantly be reinventing and redefining new or existing products, you can be assured that the company in totality will be clearly positioned for the future.

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.

What’s in a name? The importance of naming

Classically, Shakespeare questioned the relevance of names by declaring: “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” Yet, the research is very clear, names matter. This is because names signify a lot of information, gleaned instantly upon first utterance; they convey gender, social class, ethnicity and may even connote personality characteristics such as kindness or morality. In yesteryears, a surname even described one’s occupation. But ultimately, the simple fact of one name being easier to pronounce over another can land an applicant a job, an employee a promotion, and even just mean you are more likely to befriend one person over another. When looking at new recruits, or workplace relations, it appears we are subjectively skewed to favour people with easily pronounced names, both first and last names. This effect goes beyond race, with surnames like “Smith” rating more favourably than “Urquhart”. How then does this impact the workplace, and by extension, how should you name your company?

Individual careers

A classic article in the New Yorker in 2013 described a famous study where researchers sent fake resumes to various employers where the only difference was a “white- or black-sounding” name, such as Emily Walsh and Greg Baker versus Latisha Washington and Jamal Jones. They found that one-in-ten “white-sounding” names receive a call-back, whereas only one-in-fifteen “black-sounding” names also received a call-back. This effect has also been seen in the classroom, where names associated with low socioeconomic-status or certain cultures, influence the expectations of the teacher for different pupils. As a result, the opportunities available vary considerably, and tell us that names really concretely signify certain attributes which affect interpersonal relationships. This is hard to avoid, as it is mostly the result of subconscious bias, but one approach could be to de-identify resumes prior to assessment. Furthermore, being aware of these subconscious biases and make an effort to correct them. After all, it may lead to recruitment of the most talented and effective workers.

Naming a company

Not only do these differences matter in terms of an individual’s career, but how you name your company can have a significant impact on your brand. While creativity is important for ensuring that people remember your company name, it is also important to have an easily pronounced name. Furthermore, you can associate your company name with certain feelings to influence your brand, such as use of the word “apple” to signify fresh new ideas, “google” to make you think of oggling pages as you search, or even simply “bing” the onomatopeoia that signifies the exchange of information and receiving of information. The name used has a powerful impact on the brand clients associate with your company, and may even have something to do with the favourability of “Chrome” and “Firefox” over “Internet Explorer” (speed of downloads aside).

Shakespeare had it right.

Ultimately, think carefully about names. Juliet might not have thought they mattered in Elizabethan times, but we are certainly not disillusioned about their relevance in modern society. Ensure you take care not to bias your selection of new recruits based on their names, and think long and hard about the name of your company in terms of catchy, easy to pronounce and associated with the right context. 

 

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.

Building bridges: developing the network of communication

Bridges are amazing feats of engineering, taking enduring strength and meticulous planning to construct. They provide a means to connect one place to another, enabling transport of persons and equipment not previously possibly. Bridges therefore represent a new frontier for human endeavour.

Exciting frontiers

Similarly, creating information highways in business generates new frontiers for business development. There is a concerted effort required to generate the foundation for effective communication and business relationships at all levels, from peer-peer connections, to inter-business trade. The relationships need to be gently supported to prosper, and it requires work from both ends.

Bridges and businesses

There are striking similarities in the ways that bridges and business relationships are built. Take the Sydney Harbour Bridge: construction began in 1925 at Dawes Point in the south and McMahon’s Point to the north and graduation came together over the next five years until the structure was complete in the middle. There is something beautiful in this collaboration, in the elegant plan required to align the construction and the camaraderie and teamwork involved in the labourers putting together such a magnificent structure.

Collaborative planning

The way that an effective business relationship is developed is also beautiful. The bridge built here also needs to provide a viable business model at both ends, equally enabling each co-worker, employee and manager, and sellers and buyers to maintain the integrity. Any model which favours one party over the other results in an unstable network.

Effective planning

It is also essential for the planning to be effective to support the structural integrity required. If there is ineffective planning for capacity or for taking external factors into consideration, the bridge is likely to fail. Historically, we can learn from the lesson of the Severn Bridge, to link England with Wales which was opened in 1966. The response in increase in traffic was unanticipated by the designers and another bridge had to be constructed 5 miles upstream to compensate. What you want is to design the Bay Bridge in San Francisco built in 1934 which today successfully can accommodate 240,000 vehicles.

Finally, ensure you take external factors into account, such as market growth or compliance requirements. Ensure you don’t repeat the mistakes of the Tay Bridge in Scotland which killed 60 train passengers due to its design which did not take wind-loading into account.

Mind the Gap

Basically, you want to ensure you “mind the gap” to build a successful bridge in developing a business relationship. To do this consider three main points:

–          Build from both ends, taking both sides into account

–          Consider future growth, and ensure the relationship is large enough to accommodate

–          Ensure you design your network to be robust enough to take external factors into account

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.

Employee recognition in the Hotel Industry

Anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry knows that it can be lacking in terms of recognition. This is a job that most work on the pathway to other careers, but hospitality is a massive industry. Practically every social interaction that we have depends on this industry, from first dates, to birthdays, to work functions and the hospitality we receive can have a huge impact on the relative success of these events. Without recognition, it is hardly surprising to note that the hospitality industry reports the lowest statistics for employee engagement. But this trend is surprisingly not followed in the Taj Hotels group of resorts and palaces in India, where recognition and engagement of employees equals the delivery of exemplary service to its guests in 109 luxury facilities.

So laudable are the employees of the Taj group, that they have heroically acted in the interests of their guests in more than one terrorist incident. This excellence has been attributed to the particularly effective service training that the hotel group employees undergo. There is a lot to be learned from the Ordinary Heroes of the Taj, and the lessons in terms of gratitude and engagement can be applied to not only the hospitality industry, but also all workplaces in general.

  • Expressions of gratitude should come from immediate supervisors

Immediate managers are key in determining how employees feel about the company, and therefore any engagement or recognition program needs to start with front line managers. Ultimately, engaging your managers will help them to engage your employees. Ensure your managers frequently hold briefings with their employees and ensure you check in with them regularly. Additionally, though immediate supervisors are so important, they shouldn’t be the only ones to give feedback to employees. Taj hotels employees can accumulate points from compliments from guests, compliments from colleagues and their own suggestions. Appreciation from peers is extremely powerful and should be factored into the broader system of employee engagement.

  • Recognition should be immediate and frequent

It seems that many managers save up and hold their recognition until a later time, typically until the annual review. But it is known that even financial rewards at the annual review are too little too late. The best thanks is an immediate thanks, and acknowledgment and recognition are more important than financial incentives.

  • A recognition system is necessary

Finally, Taj Hotels have a Special Thanks and Recognition System (STARS) which links customer satisfaction to rewards. Ultimately the particular system is not the important factor, but the fact that they have a system for employee recognition. Their system is also reviewed daily to ensure employee recognition is a daily occurrence. It is crucial to ensure employee engagement by employing a robust employee recognition program which pays dividends regularly.

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.

The benefits of Casual Friday

Casual Friday is a time-honoured tradition. The once a week opportunity to dress down has been re-appropriated into many different facets such as “Hawaiian shirt Friday” and many charity groups run their fundraisers such as “jeans for genes day” on Friday to fit in with the usual office day of casual attire. Countless articles online proclaim the correct choice of clothing for a casual Friday, including Oprah, the daytime-talk Queen herself. But does casual Friday work? What are the benefits for such a deviation from the norm? Below are the reasons for allowing your employees to dress less formally once a week:

  1.       It’s a fun change of pace

Anything that promotes a break from the monotony of the usual workday can help employees feel more engaged with their work, and more motivated to achieve success in the workplace. Even something so simple as music in the office can dramatically improve productivity and efficiency. So let your employees have some fun with it. You can even run themes where employees come wearing their favourite sport colours or crazy socks or whatever you would like to do. Get creative with it! Of course, as Oprah herself says, there can be some inappropriate casual wear choices, so ensure a clear policy for casual Friday dress codes to avoid any uncomfortable situations.

  1.       Promoting team building

More casual dressing may promote more approachability, and therefore you may find that interpersonal collaboration is strengthened by a casual Friday tradition. Generally, with casual attire, there will be less stratification of work roles, and employees will feel less identified by their wardrobes and status but by their contributions. With greater cross-communication, social relationships will also be strengthened and ultimately your teams will be stronger and more interconnected.

  1.       Meets employee needs

Enabling your employees to display a sense of individuality whilst attending their work helps them to feel more like a person than just a number. Looking out for employee comfort also promotes the idea that personal needs of employees are seen to by management and that each individual is valuable.

  1.       Everyone loves a free perk

Ultimately, this is a free strategy to enhance workplace engagement. Everybody loves a freebie, and this is a win for employee motivation which literally doesn’t cost a thing. Many employees look forward to and enjoy the opportunity to express their individuality on a casual Friday.

Don’t hesitate to add this free motivating strategy to your office environment. Develop a policy on appropriate office attire, and you can put this into place almost immediately. Don’t forget to measure the impact of this technique on team strength and workplace engagement to see if it is having an effect. But according to the anecdotal evidence, this is usually a winner, helping employees feel more motivated on both casual Friday, and through the week whilst looking forward to the end of the week coming around.

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.