Discussing what makes us happy at The Canvas Cafe

Five insights from our Happyworks workshop

Last Thursday witnessed the inaugural Happyworks Series workshop at The Canvas Café in Shoreditch. It was a terrific evening including a fantastic group of people, lots of good discussion and, importantly, some delicious wine, beer and pastries.

People joined us from all kinds of industries, including HR to design, and what struck me was the similarity across all these industries of what people wanted from their jobs. This was strictly and definitively a workshop of self-discovery, but I am a researcher by experience, and ‘once a researcher always a researcher,’ so I want to share some of the insights I got from it with you!

Insight number 1: wanting to be happier at work doesn’t have to mean you hate your job

I was delighted to see that there were people who came along who didn’t dislike their job, but who were just intrigued how they could get more from it. Sure, no job is perfect and there are going to be some things you like less than others, but it’s important to recognise that this is par for the course and admitting this doesn’t mean you’re undermining or ignoring the things you enjoy. I love working with clients who come to me looking to improve their relationship with a job they already like – it means we can really hone in on what’s important and get to the good stuff.

Insight number 2: autonomy, mastery, purpose

The number one reason people felt disgruntled with their jobs was a sense of lack of purpose.  On the other hand, feeling valued, winning work, independence and helping others achieve were key things people valued about work. This isn’t groundbreaking news, but underlines the important point about intrinsic motivation: purpose matters more than prizes. People need to feel they are contributing to something that offers them a sense of meaning in order to thrive. This meaning is different for everyone, so as far as managers are concerned, it’s a case of finding each of your team’s inner meaning and helping them towards meeting that in doing their everyday tasks, giving them autonomy along the way. Easier said than done, but knowing this and being aware of it is a good place to start.

Insight number 3: people hate politics

Bureaucracy, ‘blame games’ and bulls**t were listed among the things that people disliked most about their jobs. People hate feeling like they are being made to play some game or perform some part of a process for the benefit of others. Clear and genuinely open communication to all staff at all times is key here. But this is also something people can accept and put up with as par for the course (see insight 1), so long as they get enough personal satisfaction and sense of purpose from what they do.

Insight number 4: people want to use their skills

By far the most important thing people valued about their jobs was the opportunity to use their skills and explore their interests. Having a sense of challenge and expertise was mentioned by nearly everyone when thinking about what they liked about their jobs. But, as we discovered, skills can be different from strengths. Being stuck with tasks you are good at but that you don’t deride any real enjoyment from is an easy trap to fall into, so it’s important to align the two. Thinking about how you can apply some of the skills you enjoy most to more of the tasks you do at work can really help boost a sense of satisfaction from your job. So managers, try having a conversation with your team about what bits of their job they really enjoy versus what they’re just good at.

Insight number 5: location, location, location

We had a lucky group – they all loved where they worked! Either it was convenient for them to get to, or the offices themselves were plush, but either way the power of a good space cannot be underestimated. Having a funky office isn’t going to make up for deeper-rooted dissatisfaction, but I was surprised to see it being mentioned so much as something people really appreciated. Perhaps we tend to take it for granted, but employers should take note. We do spend all day there, after all, so it’s worth making sure it’s a nice place to be.

I hope that these insights have provided some food for thought as to what you may be able to do differently for yourself or for your staff. I will be elaborating on some of these points in future posts, so watch this space.

One thing I haven’t mentioned here is the issue of stress and anxiety. This is something that affects nearly everyone at some point, and our group certainly felt this whether it was their own stress or the existing stress in their team. Our next workshop in the series, Stressworks, on June 11th, will look at how we can change our perspective on stress and demonstrate some quick tips on how to manage it better. For more information and to book please click here. See you there!