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Veronika Szűcs Rajničová
August 29, 2022, 5:00pm
Reading time: 6:11

10 Things Companies Do That Steal People's Joy From Work

It is difficult for leaders to relinquish control. But studies show that giving team members room to think freely and make decisions has a positive impact on their performance and creativity.

Veronika Szűcs Rajničová
August 29, 2022, 5:00pm
Reading time: 6:11
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10 Things Companies Do That Steal People's Joy From Work
Zdroj: Pexels/Karolina Grabowska
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The year is 1999. The movie Office Space is coming to cinemas. Although it was a comedy, many laughed as tears filled their eyes because it accurately portrayed the hardships of office work at the turn of the millennium. People fed up with life were just about ready to kill each other in their open space cubicles. Why? They were constantly interrupting each other, not enjoying their work, and collectively resenting overtime and authoritarian bosses.

What's worse is that although more than two decades have passed since the premiere, many working people would still find themselves relating to the main protagonists of the film today. Is it even possible to go to work with joy or is it a workaholic utopia?


The team of researchers who wrote the manager's guide The Enjoyable Company insist it can be done. Provided that management creates suitable working conditions for people.


One of the authors of the manual is Michal Matloň, whose area of expertise is organisational and architectural psychology. It reveals that not all stylish and design spaces make people feel good. With him, we looked through the handbook at 10 things that companies use to steal people's joy from work.


Source: Pexels/Christina Morillo


1. They cannot give up control and give people their autonomy

It is difficult for leaders to relinquish control. But studies show that giving team members room to think freely and make decisions has a positive impact on their performance and creativity.

What can it look like in practice? People should be given the opportunity to decide for themselves where, with whom and when they will do their work. Thanks to this, they may come up with a creative and unconventional solution to the problem, which will be fun and fulfilling.

At the same time, leaders should learn to gradually hand over responsibility for their role to employees along with independence. It will be up to them how they fulfill their role, but they will also have to accept the results of their actions.


2. They do not involve people in setting their own goals

Freedom in decision-making goes hand in hand with freedom in where I want to grow as an employee of the company and what I want to build. Everyone feels good when they look back at their work and see a unique piece of their personality in it.

In this case, managers can help people set their own goals. Ideally, they will also propose a procedure together to fulfill them. Some companies allow team members to set goals by designing them and then presenting and agreeing with their colleagues.

3. They do not help employees find the intersection between their own meaning and the meaning of the company

According to surveys, around 30% of people feel that their work is meaningless. Leaders should be able to clearly name where the company is headed and the work that their employees do. Then they should help employees find the intersection between their own meaning and the meaning of their position in the team. This can be started during rigorous onboarding, but regular personal conversations with team members will also help.

Urs Karkoshka, a manager at the pharmaceutical company Novartis, emphasizes the importance of common goals in the book. "You need to feel like a part of the company, to know that you are contributing to something and that your opinion is heard. The feeling that you are working together towards a common goal is also very important. It's a joy to see when you create something bigger as a team."


4. They do not cultivate high-quality social ties and employees' feeling that they belong somewhere

Humans are primarily social creatures. The quality of relationships and the team is one of the most important factors of job satisfaction. Managers should be able to create an environment in which people feel safe and have the time and space to develop these relationships.

However, it should not only happen through mandatory activities, such as teambuildings, parties or sports events. With the right conditions created, people will form relationships even during everyday meetings.

But what should one imagine under that? According to Michal Matloň, it will help, for example, that employees have spaces at the workplace that support socialization and meetings - internal cafes or lounges.

On the other hand, individual teams should have enough privacy so that colleagues can talk openly with each other and not have to worry about whether someone outside their group will hear them. Leadership should set a culture where people feel safe enough to be authentic and not have to pretend.


Source: Pexels/fauxels


5. They do not provide space for play and experimentation

People are most creative and innovative when they have regular space to experiment, in an environment where they feel safe. If leaders push their team members into continuous efficiency and performance, they leave their creative potential untapped.

Radical innovation and performance cannot happen at the same time. That's why managers need to give their employees an environment and time where they feel safe and can approach their work with playfulness - without performance expectations. It is also the most effective way to help employees grasp the ever-changing world and its new demands.


6. They do not allow people to rest well

Long-term productivity and innovation are not compatible with trying to get the most out of your employees every day. Evidence from cognitive science shows that the best ideas arise when people are not actively focused on solving problems. Stories about genius ideas from the shower are based on truth, which is also confirmed by research.

Companies should give their employees space and time for quality rest and free thinking in private. Outside of work, they should be able to disconnect completely and not feel obliged to read work emails or conversations. At the same time, managers should realize that if they push their employees to short-term performance and overtime, they will reduce their productivity in the future.


7. They think that if they give people beautifully designed offices, they will automatically feel good about the work

The office is like a spice in cooking. If you have not prepared the food correctly and from quality ingredients, adding spices will not save it. Good offices do not create a quality corporate culture, they can only support it. Therefore, any change should first of all start with the development of leaders and culture.

At the same time, in office design, it is much more important than the big name of the designer that individuals have a real influence and active participation in how the offices look. A good design doesn't just look good in photos, it reflects people's needs. Managers should also know them.


Source: Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio

8. They do not create the conditions for deep concentration for their employees

People do their best work when they can fully concentrate on it. The feeling of so-called "flow", i.e. a complete fusion with the activity one is performing, is very important for the joy of work.

Companies need to create spaces for people who do not have good conditions for concentration at home. In the office, they should have full visual and acoustic privacy (walls), daylight (windows), fresh air, ergonomic equipment and enough space so that they do not feel cramped.

At the same time, the communication culture should be set so that people are not disturbed while concentrating and can reserve time when they are not available.


9. They force people to return to offices for a certain number of days a week

In a company that has a quality culture and spaces that fully support people in their work, team members can decide for themselves when they need to come to the office. Some employees concentrate well at home and come to the office to talk and strengthen relationships with colleagues.

Others have small children at home and need a quiet space from the company for concentrated work. Others will come to work intensively with colleagues in the project space for a month and work from home for another month. Every employee should be able to agree on how to work with their colleagues and the leader.

Managers can help their people understand their needs, the team's common tasks, and set the conditions for their fulfillment.


10. They offer centralised benefits that are not really important

Benefits are a popular place in job ads where companies try to attract potential employees. They are getting ahead of themselves in how many there will be. But it depends on what they are.

Instead of the company choosing the latest computers for everyone, it would be much more useful if employees could choose devices based on their needs and preferences. The location of the offices on the top floor of the tower will help people to have a much better view of the trees and nature from the window. Instead of a design by a well-known architect, it is much more important that people can gradually adapt and change the space in which they work.

Instead of motivational speakers and t-shirts with a company logo, it will have a much greater impact if managers help people find their place and value in the success of the company. These benefits are more difficult to realize. However, their impact on talent retention is incomparable.

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