How Romance Might Save Your Job
I’m not afraid to say it — we need more romance at work.
I don’t mean romance in the literal, romantic-love sense. What I’m advocating for is reframing the way many employees view their jobs: a pressure-cooker means to an end.
Given that employees spend an average of 70 percent of their time at work, and would much prefer to be elsewhere, I think we can do much better creating company cultures that spotlight fun, play and human connection—not just stark barometers like productivity and optimization.
Imagine if employees perceived their jobs as an adventure rather than a grind. Imagine if TGIF became TBIF (Too Bad It’s Friday). Imagine workdays with romantic attributes like mystery, intrigue and enchantment.
Not only is it possible, it’s already being done.
Interviewing scores of businesses that embrace romance at work, I found their practices impact company culture by engaging employees’ minds and hearts, since fully engaged employees find greater meaning in the work they do. By building stronger bonds with their colleagues, employees think more creatively and learn that magical moments are possible everywhere—even on the job.
Rethink your workspace – and its structure
Business leaders with a penchant for romance are not tied to the traditional model of a workplace with offices and cube farms. In fact, some even question the most basic staples of office life: a desk and chair.
Advertising agency The Barbarian Group features a 1,100-foot long “endless table” that runs through and around the 23,000 foot square space of its New York office. It gives all 125 employees a place to work and even provides meeting rooms and communal space. This “Superdesk” is symbolic of the firm’s creative gusto—it literally provides endless space for the company’s stories to unfold.
Redesigning your workspace may not be feasible, but it’s still possible to give employees fresh perspective by restructuring their work environments, even down to the way they conduct meetings. Allow employees to swap seats once a month, or even once a week. Promote standing-only meetings, or encourage employees to “walk and talk”. After all, humans were not designed to sit at desks all day, and it’s also not very romantic!
Get rid of your office (or just for a little while)
GitHub, an open-source, code-sharing developer community takes the stance that the office no longer has a role to play in conventional productivity. “Headquarters” is a social arena, not a center of work life. Almost all employees work remotely. The company conducts an experiment known as GitHub Destinations, in which it rents apartments in locations that employees have always wanted to visit, like Tuscany or Montevideo. Scott Chacon, co-founder and CIO, said: “They [employees] choose to live there for a month and have serendipitous interactions because you can get just as much done there as you could anywhere else.”
Not every company is ready to scrap the classic office environment. Arguably, most are not. But there is something to allowing employees to conduct a workday outside of the office, and I don’t mean working from home. Cafes, parks, even hotel lobbies, are viable options for employees who desire a change of scenery—and provide fodder for new ways of thinking.
Drop the marketing speak—even at work
We all use buzzwords at work. And it’s standard operating procedure to use a specific vocabulary when communicating with customers. But what if we tried communicating with customers without throwing up a verbal wall built of all the words and terms wethink are most effective? What if those words really aren’t?
Rowan Gormley, founder and CEO of online wine service Naked Wines, decided to play with this concept in an email blast to potential customers. He removed all mention of “new,” “free,” “unique,” “value,” “special offer,” and other marketing jargon. He wrote to customers in a casual, witty, and friendly way, without any “call for action.” Then he tested this version against a more traditional marketing e-mail to see which one was more effective. It turns out that the response rate of the personal e-mail was much higher than the traditional version. Gormley said, “Isn’t it amazing how simply being yourself is the best value proposition?”
You may not be willing or able to veer from the established communications strategy of your company, but imagine conducting a team meeting with zero buzzwords, or conducting a once-a-week ban. This requires that everyone speak from the heart, and describe even the most technical problem in a way that a third-grader would understand. How much clearer would that make a problem? How much easier would it be to find a solution?
Put the emphasis on giving rather than receiving
Businesses are beginning to embed generosity in their cultures. In his book “Give and Take,” Wharton business school professor Adam Grant explores the benefits of generosity at work, which he believes is an undervalued source of motivation. He cites the advice of Adam Rifkin, a serial entrepreneur and the most connected person on LinkedIn: “You should be willing to give up five minutes of your time for anybody.”
Companies should have a strong interest in fostering giving behavior among employees because it enhances key aspects of their job performance, including effective collaboration, innovation, service excellence, and quality assurance. One of Grant’s studies even suggests that interrupting employees’ work by giving them occasional altruistic tasks increases their sense of overall productivity. Grant believes a willingness to help others is at the heart of a fulfilling career. And this is all made possible with regular infusions of romance.
When our minds and our hearts are engaged, when we have opportunities to see the world in a new light, and when we acknowledge our humanity—even on the job—we feel alive. And when we do, we believe we can do anything. No hurdle is high enough, no problem too thorny. This is what it’s like to be in love, and this is how it can feel to love what we do.
This post first appeared in CEO.com