When you think of joyful places, work may not be the first place that comes to mind. The reality is many of us work, long days extending beyond 9-5. Work life is inevitable but how do you inject joy into the busyness of it all? For me, running my own agency is like running endlessly on a big hamster wheel. It never stops, you have to keep going and going. I was running so fast, chasing my goals that I lost track of what made me happy. I probably ran right past it. My focus was on the hustle, not the happy. Then one day I made a conscious decision to add more joy at work, afterall it’s the place I spend the most time at.
The first step to adding joy to your work-life is to schedule time and commit to it. If you can commit to another meeting (‘cuz we’ve all sat through our share of those), you can commit to a little joy as well. One of my friends, Sonia is a life coach. Whenever we plan to see each other, she sends a meeting request. Boom! You’re now locked in between her morning workout and client meeting. It’s official because taking time for joy should be serious business.
ICE CREAM BREAKS
Adding joy can start small. You don’t have to clear a whole day and commit to a team building wellness retreat. Start by making the conscious effort to take a break. Coffee? Tea? Ice cream? Whatever rocks your boat. Give yourself the courtesy to stop and breathe. Nobody ever died because you took a break (unless you’re a doctor, then this paragraph doesn’t apply to you. Sorry, keep working. Thank you for saving lives).
Years ago, my friend Nancy would call every day at 3PM and cheerfully exclaim, “ice cream break!!!” That was our cue to take a few minutes to grab a snack (extra points if it’s actually ice cream), catch up and just decompress from being busy. Hearing her voice instantly adds joy to my life. Nance later moved to other side of the globe so our time zones didn’t match up for ice cream breaks anymore, but to this day I still try to insert ice cream breaks into my schedule.
I’m a Type A planner. I have colour-coded Excel spreadsheets for just about anything. Spontaneity isn’t my strong suit. I need to know where I’m going at all times, what I’ll be doing, who’s with me and will there be snacks?!?! All that being said, sometimes you just have to go with the flow and say, “F it, let’s do it!”
One random day, my team got into a passionate debate about “the best poutine” (I know, deep thought-provoking material here). One of my girls, Marie-Jeanne threw Patate Mallette on the table. No one could dispute her claim as none of us had been to this poutine haven or even heard of its unfamiliar small town. Google Maps said it was 45 minutes away. Quite far for a lunch outing, but F it. We needed to know if this IS the best poutine. Unexpected, certainly not planned in advance but we soon found ourselves in the quaint little town of Beauharnois. And guess what? We found joy, covered in cheese and gravy!!!
WALK IT OUT
It’s hard to be joyful sitting on your butt all day. Get outside, breathe some fresh air, being in nature can do wonders for you. Back in 2016 I moved my office to a happy loft by the Lachine Canal. Everyone asked why I was moving all the way into town when my current office was 5 minutes from home and close to all my clients. Was I looking to expand my client base? New opportunities? Nope. I was looking for joy.
You see, I had the whole “working hard” aspect down pat. I worked so much, I never left my desk. All I did was work, rush home to family life, work again at night when kids were in bed, rush back to the office next day and repeat. I needed a reason to slow down, take a break. In moving close the canal and Atwater Market, I hoped it would entice me to leave my desk – go for a walk by the water, grab lunch in the market, buy a plant, whatever, just stop working all the time. Even if I only did this a couple of times, it would still be an improvement from my workaholic ways.
Although the walks were not a daily occurrence, I did walk more than before. We even had a couple of walking meetings, which were an improvement to sitting around a conference table. The little walks here and there brought me one step closer to joy.
SQUEEZE IN JOY
I used to jam-pack my schedule, leaving little room for joy or even to breathe! When I travelled for work, I’d take the first flight out before sunrise, zip through my meetings planned back to back, then rush to the next available flight home. It was a whirlwind. It was exhausting. It certainly wasn’t joyful.
I had to remind myself, what’s the point of being successful if you’re not happy too? So I now make an effort to squeeze in joy whenever possible. Extend a business trip to see a friend, go to a museum, take a hike! I’ll even pay the difference to upgrade my hotel stay. C’mon a pink palace just screams joy!
GO TEAM GO!
FYI if you like the people you work with, it will be more joyful. One way to strengthen the bonds is to travel together. While this is a challenge with busy client deadlines, I was able to squeeze in a couple of mini getaways with my team. First New York then fun in the sun with Miami.
We bonded over sun-tanning, hitting the hotspots in South Beach to hitting U.S. Route 1 to the Florida Keys. We saw dolphins, shared laughs, made lots of memories. Plus, if we got fed up with anyone there’s the option of feeding your colleague to the giant tarpons in Islamorada. Fun or fish bait, either way it’s a win. Get out of the usual routine, share joy in an adventure together, come back a stronger team (minus the one that you fed to the tarpons).
The schedule and budget won’t always allow for passport required trips, but there are plenty of places to fulfill the wanderlust and team building vibes. A mini day excursion can inject much workplace joy and do wonders for the morale. At one point, we even implemented #FunFriday. My team and I constantly looked for joyful experiences to share together whether it be a picnic in the lavender fields to discovering an abandoned mine.
Sometimes it’s even as simple as discovering a new resto or coffee shop. It’s not a trip to Paris, but there’s joy in sharing good eats together. After client events we’d have a celebration dinner to recap everyone’s take on the good, the bad and of course the juicy details. We celebrate the wins, big and small together. Togetherness is the key.
Other joyful memories include attending industry events together, dressing head to toe in white for Diner En Blanc (and looking like a cult when we stopped en route to pick up items at a store), trying to unlock ourselves from an escape room (and failing together) or dodging flying arrows at Dodgebow. Nothing says joy at work like shooting arrows at each other.
EVERYONE BRINGS JOY
There are no set rules. Everyone plays a part in bringing joy to the workplace. Sometimes one person suggests a cool off-site place for our next brainstorm meeting, other times someone else brings in a homemade treat to share with the team. We’ve even had full-fledge lobster feasts cooked at the office! Not a first date food, so if you can share a messy lobster meal with your team that’s a solid bond right there. It’s the little things that make a difference and contribute to making work more joyful. One of my fondest memories include a team member showing up with walkie talkies. We were taking a road trip down the 401 for the launch of a beauty retailer. Although we had two separate cars, the walkie talkies allowed for everyone to be part of the conversation and not miss out on any of the jokes. Sharing laughter is pure joy. Over.Joy is a work in progress. Keep at it and sprinkle it to your work-life. Your productivity actually improves when you feed what makes you feel alive. It will rev up your creativity, your energy, your motivation to achieve any goal. Hope some of these ideas will spark joy for you and your team. If you have more suggestions to share, I’d love to hear from you!