Whether or not I like the designation, I am a millennial, and we millennials have a distinct aversion to hard work. It’s a hard reality to fess up to, but even those of us who enjoy working or like our jobs would prefer to spend as little time doing work at our jobs as possible. Some more antiquated thought schools would posit that a whip needs cracked or a fire needs lit under our buns to get us to be productive, while those of us who have managed to create some wiggle room in our work-life relationship would react more positively to the opposite. I know, it sounds counter-productive, but my generation works better when we don’t feel like we are working harder.
This dichotomy interested me, so I decided to do some research. Renee Bush is a project manager (the one who would be cracking whips and lighting fires a generation ago) at 7D8, a graphic design and branding studio in Downtown Salt Lake City. I sat down with her and she enlightened me on how getting out of the office in search of leisure and friendship more frequently has led 7D8 to a workplace culture of super productivity and employee dedication. Here’s how it went down. My words are in bold, her responses look like the words you’re reading right now.
I know that you make an effort to get outside and do fun things with your employees. Why is that important to you and your business? What is the philosophy that motivates the practice?
Yes, we really do try to take time to get outside the office regularly. We like to break it up between a few different types of activities. We thik it’s really important to do things that are intellectually inspiring, see new things we haven’t seen before, be in nature and also to do things with our families. It really helps create a support system where not just employees are invested in the vision, but their families are as well. It’s really important to us as a company because we want people to love where they work.
It sounds like the more you emphasize life outside of work the better they perform when its time to get things done. How does this philosophy help in the work place?
We feel it helps us avoid resentment and squabbles because we see each other as people with lives and families and interests and not just as tools or as a means to get something done. We realize that we ask a lot of our employees and we want to offer them things to help enrich their lives. We aren’t just trying to squeeze productivity out of them and micromanage every move they make. We trust each other, we benefit from each other. WE have common goals and hopefully some common interests. One of our major office philosophies is “wellness.” Employees who feel well are fulfilled, happy and productive. Every company would benefit from healthy, happy employees.
Well said. When I was a teenager, every job I had they told me to check my personal life at the door. That just doesn’t seem to work anymore, does it? What are some of the activities you have organized with your employees. Which ones were the most memorable? Most successful?
We like to go to a movie, or on a hike. We play basketball, go to a museum, go out to dinner, see a soccer match. We’ve even seen a broadway play while traveling in New York. The ones that are the most successful are the ones everyone is excited about (ideally aren’t scary! or difficult). We have had people get hurt before, which was unfortunate, but that has become a vivid memory in everyone’s mind; an experience that brings us together when we revisit it. However, injuries aren’t fun so we try to avoid any extreme sports. That’s something we’ve learned…
How often do you think you would like to do team building activities and field trips?
We try to do something a few times a month. I think once a week is a good amount. But I also think it’s important to be flexible about it. It only adds stress to force people to do something fun when they feel they have a lot to do. We always try to play it by ear and find an activity that everyone wants to do at a time that is good for everyone. I think that also helps activities feel special and not expected, which can limit the development of a sense of entitlement to leisure at work. It really is a balance.
What positive results have you seen from making these activities a priority?
We’ve found that people are more happy to come to work. They feel comfortable around each other and work really well together. They respect each other’s opinions and are able to work through things honestly and openly. I think it can really benefit the leadership to be more approachable and human. I think employees are more open to bosses when they’ve seen them outside of the office and with their families. That can really bring a team together and remove resentment, spite and hurt feelings.
– Kyle MacDonald is a freelance industrial designer and blogger for US Bus Utah.