Joy to the Work: Making the Job Fun

by | Dec 27, 2018 | People

There’s a carwash in our community that does an excellent job. They vacuum the interior, wash the inside of the windows and hand-dry the exterior. It is staffed mostly with high school students who bust their butts, and I applaud them for that.

I often bring my dog Lily with me when I go to the carwash. She likes to get out of the car and come into the waiting area where she eats every morsel of popcorn off the floor. She’s a big, dumb, goofy, and loving yellow lab and everybody there loves her. When she jumps out of the car, it’s a chorus of “LILY!” just like Norm used to get when he walked into Cheers. The workers drop what they’re doing and come over to pet her, and she soaks it all up. She gives them kisses and eventually ends up rolling over on the wet ground so that they’ll pet her belly.  It’s a win-win—my dog loves it, and it brightens up the day for the people working a pretty tough job.

Last night after the carwash, I got to thinking about what I do to bring a little joy and happiness to the workers at my companies and how I could make the work environment a fun place.  I don’t think it takes much.  My dog can turn the mood of a bunch of tired teenagers entirely around, and if Lily can do it, so can I. Hey, I’ll let my workers pat my head and rub my considerable belly if that will make them happy. OK…maybe that’s not the right lesson here.

In the book Everybody Matters, authors Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia describe how Chapman turned a struggling traditional manufacturer into a multi-billion dollar enterprise— primarily as a result of how he treated people. He had a strong belief in the power of treating people like family and making work fun. He tells the story of watching a group of workers having a good time during the NCAA basketball playoffs. They were laughing about their tournament brackets and joking about who was going to win it all. All this jocularity occurred until it was time to go to work. Then faces became dour and shoulders slumped. He mused: “Why can’t work be as fun as betting on the NCAA bracket?” This observation started a journey of cultural reform centered on people.

I believe that companies would be well-served to spend more time about making things fun and creating an enjoyable work environment. I’ve been around Lean for a long time, and it seems like we’re only focused on problem-solving and continuous improvement. We’re obsessed with what we’re doing wrong. Even if we embrace the value of “Respect for People,” I think we forget about fun and joy.

As the holiday season comes to a close and we’re putting a bow on 2018, perhaps we should be deliberate about how we bring fun and joy to the workplace. If anyone wants me to bring Lily to your shop, give me a ring!