(* double entendre alert)
Normally, anyone in the office who implores me to 'have a go on his chopper*' gets the sharp end of an HR beasting. However, in this instance, as I was grumpy and the rest of the team were goading me I felt pressured to comply. And guess what: I enjoyed it.
At this juncture you need some context. The said chopper was a small remote control helicopter which had been brought into the office by our Marketing and PR specialist Nick and had been adopted with enthusiasm by the rest of the team. I wasn't overly impressed, especially when it started smashing into things and was used to buzz the office cat. But then again, on the day it appeared in the office I was a little grumpy (yes even the CEO of an organisation that promotes humour and happiness gets grumpy from time to time).
Day to day business dealings aren't always funny and on that particular day I had a lot on my plate. Later, at a meeting, the team noticed my mood and Nick suggested I have a play. "Let's finish the meeting first," I insisted. But when the team used the phrase 'practice what you preach' I could see their point, grabbed the remote and began smashing the helicopter about the office. It was actually quite addictive and if I hadn't had a train to catch I'd still be there now, hogging the toy for myself.
The episode made me think about how workplaces help people manage stress, get through grumpy days and create general well-being. As well as giving people cognitive tools, there is a lot to be said for creating areas where people can play, relax, read and look at funnies on the Internet (do not underestimate the restorative power of a cartoon of a cat dressed in batman costume twerking). The more forward thinking workplaces do have these areas. I have seen slides at Google, sleeping pods at Proctor and Gamble, libraries and chill out zones at CIPD and I'd love to see more of this.
A few years ago Laughology delivered an afternoon seminar called Laughter at lunchtime. The idea was to encourage people to step away from their desks, laugh a little, relax a little and eat well. We wanted to find out if doing this would help people feel happier and work better. We surveyed the people who attended and the results were hugely positive. There's a culture in workplaces of staying at desks all day, even eating there. The research tells us this creates unproductive teams. I get that not everyone wants to fly a helicopter or go to watch a comedy performance at lunchtime, but having time out and recognising when your mood is having an adverse effect on your productivity is really important. Not just for you but your colleagues too.
1Step away from your desk - if you are a leader or manager you need to lead by example. That means showing your team that going out for lunch, a quick break or having some time out (within reason) is positive.
2If you have the space then have a play/games room. Put some distraction toys in there like a remote control toy, mini ping-pong table, a Wii or whatever you think. You'll be surprised at how this helps improve mood and gets the creative juices flowing too. (see Creative and innovative thinking skills)
3Have meetings in different places. If you can, go out for a meeting to a cafe, green space or somewhere different. A change of scenery is good and it will help you think differently too.
4Be aware when you and others need a break or need to do something different.
5Have rewards of the week or month and ask for nominations from teams. Make them positive and inclusive and maybe not even about work.
6Make it optional. Everyone has a different way of coping which is why various ways to encourage time out are important. Don't force fun on people and know your team and individuals well enough to know what will work and what won't. Ask for their suggestions to get buy in.
Creating an environment where people can relax and have time out when they need it can improve productivity. Focus on what you can do and promote positive behaviours. You'll be surprised at the difference this can make.