A happy workforce is a creative workforce

Getting staff to socialise can boost productivity

I will put my cards on the table right at the start of this article. I have always believed that motivation is about challenge, reward, enjoyment, fun, encouragement and community.

I once worked for someone who thought that all people were motivated by fear and greed. Despite having many arguments with him about this, he stuck to this belief. I had to go undercover to ensure that my people had a wider spectrum of their needs met.

I ran annual days out for the wider management team, and occasionally for the level below that too. We played games that focused on learning different skills, and I used it to spot talent. I took a lot of flak in the organisation, but it worked, and several people had job changes as a result of our spotting new skills.

All work and no play

There is a saying that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. I wonder why management so often seem to ignore this? We spend much of our life at work, and yet do we enjoy this time?

As the pressure grows to do more with less and to prove that IT is giving value for money, the result is longer hours, tighter deadlines, often longer commutes and occasionally a culture of blame.

This means that people rush off after work to see their family and have a social life outside the office. I think this is a real pity, as I believe that we should enjoy our work and our work environment. I would go so far as to say it makes everyone more productive.

A good community spirit encourages creative thinking and an enthusiastic energy to be successful. We all prefer a place where bitching and moaning is virtually non-existent.

This was brought home to me a few years ago when Legal & General hosted a young Chinese woman on a working exchange for a year. At the end of the year, she came to say goodbye and she left me with a thought.

She felt that the British needed to get a life and stop working so long and so hard. Apparently, people in China work shorter hours and retire earlier than we do. She also thought that we did not have fun at work, which she found odd. It made me step back and observe the workplace. She was right.

Critical competencies

I am also concerned that we may be playing lip-service to teamwork being a critical competency. Team building often needs to be taught to people, and developing the necessary skills, in my opinion, usually flourishes in environments that are fun and creative. And it does not need to cost a fortune either.

Now, I ask all managers to think seriously about how much effort they put into encouraging some socialising at work. Computers can make us all isolationist, even e-mailing the person sitting next to us.

I know that people learn in different ways and people socialise in different ways. So let's put on our thinking caps and try to re-energise our workforce and create a community.

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