The last two and half years of Covid have taken an immense toll on us and left us a little bereft of joy, and added to mental stress. The pressure of showing up and going through a regular workday despite all the uncertainty and feeling of purposelessness was not easy.
Cooped up at home with work being the only outlet forced us to look at what we do more carefully. Before Covid, there was always the weekend to look forward to, the road trip we planned with our friends, or the drink with a good friend at the end of a grueling Wednesday.
So, what if we had a horrible week at work? – There was always something to look forward to, which made handling that horrible week easier.
Covid Killed the Party
Covid stopped all that, and for the first time, it seemed as if the tunnel had no end. Many of us dealt with the feeling of purposelessness by finding new hobbies – baking, gardening, photography. However, there is a reason it is called a hobby – we cannot do it all the time. Lucky are those who can turn their hobby to work, but not all of us get that chance.
The Purpose and the ‘Me’ Connect
So, we all started looking at our work to help provide us with that emotional connection and fulfillment.
We started asking questions such as:
- Is my work keeping me excited enough?
- Is it allowing me to immerse myself in a few hours of learning?
- Is it giving me a sense of achievement no matter how small at the end of each day?
- Does it allow me to have that camaraderie with co-workers and engage with them on things apart from work?
- Does my work allow me to manage my time well and allow time for pursuing hobbies?
The Significance of Joy at Work
We spend most part of our day at work and if it is not a source of joy, then making a career out of it becomes challenging. Humans intrinsically seek joy, and joy at work can be the most powerful way of connecting people and creating a great culture. With increased focus on mental health after Covid, having a splendid work environment is no longer the desired outcome but an absolute necessity.
All organizations are undertaking a variety of initiatives to help employees engage better – Ranging from the right reward mechanism to investing in a career plan, etc. A lot of these strategies have worked wonderfully for them.
Having worked for a long time as an employee and now with a change in Avatar as a Co-Founder, I feel an employee need not wait for the organization to get the tools to make work interesting – Employees should be in the driving seat and implement initiatives to create joy at work.
As an employee, the most important thing is to have curiosity and a learning mindset. In my experience, approaching anything that you do, no matter how mundane, with the question – “What can I learn from it?” can be immensely powerful.
When I was starting off years ago, for two days, all my time was spent comparing two excel worksheets and filling the missing information from one into another. In the absence of a primary key, there was no scope for applying the formula, and I had to do it the good old-fashioned way. At that time, my only aim was to just finish the mapping. – Who in their right mind would learn anything from such an activity?
But if you keep an open mind, you can learn so many things – such as, in this case, what is the keyboard shortcut for going back and forth between two worksheets, so I don’t waste time using the mouse, when will vlook up not work in excel, how to work with textual data, how to run a fuzzy look up, how data quality is paramount, what to keep in mind when you are designing a data ingestion tool for someone. And the most important from a process standpoint – the more you do something, the more chances you will have to find a better way of doing it.
The Approach Towards the Task that Can Keep You Going Forward
I have learned some things over the years that have helped me continuously learn, and I wanted to share a few of those that could function as a starting point. Whenever you are doing something or some work is assigned to you, try doing the following:
- Does not matter how many times you have done that activity before; you must approach it like you are doing it for the first time.
- Look at the big picture and ask yourselves why you are doing what you are doing and how does it impact the big picture?
- Read about the unfamiliar words you come across in that piece of work and anything related to that. Google it and see what the industry is saying about it.
- Spend 10-20% of your workday learning something to add to your capability. Speak to your managers to identify what you can do simultaneously that adds value to your company as well.
- Identify the pain points in that and suggest new ways of doing it to ensure that the next person who does that work does not experience that pain. If you must collaborate with others, who have different skill sets to achieve that do it. Speak Up if something does not seem right and recommend solutions to fix it.
- Get feedback from people that have done it to see how you could have taken another approach.
- Speak to one person in your organization who you do not work with directly to find out what he or she is working on, their challenges, and the interests that you share.
The Key to Creating Joy is Within Us
And irrespective of whatever is happening around you, enter every interaction and assignment with the curiosity of a small child. We need not complicate the process of creating joy, but by making slight changes in how we approach work, we can ensure we stay energized. We cannot always look at organizations to create that for us. Organizations have the responsibility to create the environment, but the ability to create joy in our lives is there within us. We just need to go a little deeper to understand who we are, what value systems we believe in, what drives us, and then have the courage to act.