This is Why Your Office Feels Lifeless (And How to Fix It)

Posted on: Apr 15, 2019

Categories: Company Culture

Does your office feel lifeless? While I’m all for making changes to create the life you want to be living, I believe that powerful changes can happen within office cultures to make work exciting and fun.

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There’s no question that employee turnover is expensive, so with more and more companies struggling to engage and retain their workforce, everyone’s trying to figure out what bait works best. I’ve seen everything from free food and gym passes to on-site childcare and foosball in the break room.

There’s also no question that a growing number of people feel like their office job is life-sucking. They’re living for the weekend and even hoping to switch jobs or venture into entrepreneurship. While I’m all for making changes to create the life you want to be living, I believe that powerful changes can happen within office cultures to make work exciting and fun.

I don’t care if you’re the CEO of a major corporation or fresh out of college in an entry-level position: We all contribute to the culture of our companies. So whatever level you’re at, here’s how to infuse LIFE into your WORK.

1. Get distracted on purpose.

It’s no secret that people get sidetracked on the job by chatty coworkers, scrolling through social media or reading the news. According to recent surveys, 3 out of 4 employees feel distracted at work—and 66% don’t talk to their manager or leader about it.

But what if, instead of pretending that distraction doesn’t happen, companies embraced it?

At one point Google allowed every employee to spend 20% of their time working on things that have sparked their interest, even if they didn’t fit into the employees’ job descriptions. Wait, wouldn’t that mean that they’d lose revenue? Actually, I bet it had the opposite effect. Instead of mindlessly scrolling a couple of minutes at a time, employees had permission to set aside time to research or create something that they loved.

Not only did this give the employees a new drive for their work because it allowed them to work on something they were genuinely interested in, but it also helped Google to stay on the cutting edge of technology.

Take action: If you’re a CEO, allocate time for your employees to spend on their passions at work. And if you’re an employee who is like 70% of employees and you find yourself getting distracted, talk to your manager about it and see what kind of changes you can set in motion.

2. Invest in growth opportunities.

While it’s great to give your employees time on the job to spend on what their passionate about, not everything is free. The best companies don’t just pay their employees well—they invest in opportunities for their employees to grow and develop.

This will look different depending on your industry, but I’ve seen everything from covering employees’ tuition for grad school to giving each employee an allowance of a couple thousand dollars for attending conferences and workshops to help employees grow in their field.

Take action: If you’re a leader, add more allowance for a learning opportunity for your employees. If you’re an employee, be bold and ask for one.

3. Value all ideas.

The single best way to retain employees is this: give them a reason to be personally invested.

If people feel like robots completing assigned tasks or like cogs in a machine when they’re at work, I can guarantee that your office will feel lifeless. But if people feel like their ideas matter and their perspectives are welcome in meetings, people will care about their work.

My mentor Will Keim always said, “Leadership is getting other people to do what you want them to do and having them think it’s their idea.”

To me, this means that when your organizational values and mission are crystal clear, employees will start developing their own ideas to make those values and that mission actionable.

Take action: Bring problems to a meeting and ask other people to brainstorm solutions, and set up meetings with employees from all levels and all departments. I believe that the most effective ideas often come from new employees who have a fresh perspective or frontline employees who are face-to-face with customers every day!

4. Celebrate personal wins.

Work wins are great, and you should celebrate them. Record-breaking quarters, a new website and a product roll-out all deserve a party.

But so do life wins!

Too many companies push their employees to leave their personal lives out of the office, thinking that this will make them more productive and focused on the tasks at hand. This may be true short-term, but if a company is looking at retaining an employee, then they need to make room for people’s hopes, dreams, and lives in the office.

At the Zimmerman Group, we go around and share our “wins” and our “asks” every Monday in a Team Huddle meeting. Our wins aren’t just work wins—we share about home improvement projects, our kids’ accomplishments, or a creative endeavor that we’ve made headway on.

To bring more life into your office, celebrate life events in your office!

Take action: Throw parties for people who got engaged, ran a marathon, bought a home, or published a book. Find any excuse for making your employees feel special, and they will feel more valued, too.

5. Close the office.

Want a great company culture? Stop working. I’m serious!

Here at The Zimmerman Group, we regularly take a half day off of work to do something fun as a team. One of my favorites was a Singing Bowl Healing Session at a local yoga studio. (Talk about getting uncomfortable! I’d never done anything like it before, but I found it totally relaxing and peaceful.)

Other companies that I’ve worked with close the office for a day to get out and do community service, which is both team-building and connection-forming between your company and your community.

Take Action: For either a day or a half-day, get out of the office for something fun and actionable. Take turns between departments or teams planning events!

6. Make it FUN.

While I’ve never encountered a corporation whose mission statement says “All work and no play,” it’s a sad reality for some organizations. If you’re never having fun or laughing at work, I’m going to guess that you don’t love your job.

I don’t expect everyone to juggle knives and balance plates on a stick like I do in the office (I used to be a mime and performer,) but I do expect people who spend 40 hours of their week together to loosen up.

Take action: What can you do to bring play into your workspace? I love ping pong and darts, and we also have a quote board that we update every week with something funny or inspirational. Find something fun that fits your culture!

7. Value their dreams.

An integrated work/life focus creates an invested, engaged employee. When they have a reason to be there besides their paycheck—an opportunity to grow their skill sets, to learn new information, to write, create, construct or invent something that they’re passionate about—they have a reason to stay.

If you’re a leader, create those reasons for your employees. If you’re an employee, don’t be afraid to ask and create those reasons to stay for yourself.

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