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Does your life include enough fun?
ALSO: employee pay transparency unearths huge D&I bombshell
I had lunch with someone a couple of weeks ago, a tornado of an individual who is dazzlingly accomplished. After an hour of them updating me on all of the progress they were making, I had to check something that was coming across from the signals they were giving off. ‘Are you having fun?’ I asked. ‘Fun? I’m on the verge of a nervous breakdown,’ they said. A much more candid conversation then unfolded.
It’s a reflection of how we view fun. We see it as the opposite of productivity. Such is the societal celebration of productivity, not wanting to achieve it seems to be the mark of an unserious individual.
When a colleagues once told me ‘not to be seen laughing’ it was because fun and laughter exists as polar extremes to productivity in our perception.
That’s why the work of Catherine Price has been so powerful for me. Price wrote the bestseller How to Break Up With Your Phone, she told me, as a means of solving her own challenges. Once she’d reduced her screen time she suddenly realised that the way she’d filled the void hadn’t made her life any more satisfying. That was the start point for her life-changing book The Power of Fun. Most of us find having fun to be life affirming and exhilarating. But we find making time for fun to be embarrassing and trivial. In truth, a healthy, happy life probably includes more fun than we’re all currently having.
To help Price rebalance her own life she started by trying to understand what true fun really was. Sure, we can spend hours watching TV or playing games, but there’s often a hollowness to the experience.
True fun, she learned, is the product of playful, connected, flow - the sense that we are lost in an joyous activity with someone. I was doing some work with a school two weeks ago and the chief executive told me that the most successful day they’d run for the staff was when they sprung a choir session on them. Several teachers tried to get out of it, reluctant to spend an afternoon doing something so unnecessary and yet it is the day most cited as the time individuals were happiest in their jobs.
You can hear a discussion with Catherine Price on this week’s Eat Sleep Work Repeat. (You might also like Elle Hunt’s brilliant Guardian article, trying to implement the approach.)
Despite government threats of legal action Cambridgeshire council are continuing their evidence-led trial of the 4-day week.. “Nine in ten councils are struggling with job recruitment and retention and a four-day working week could be the answer”
If you’ve ever worked in a kitchen you’ll know that no profession works harder (I also include fast food kitchens in that, in my experience they were similar). This article reflects on the challenges of changing the culture in businesses where time pressure and high standards are non-negotiable. Employees used to work 100 hours a week, 'the norm is now more towards 48 hours’ - and one of the main tools of change is the four-day week
Google employees have long used collaborative spreadsheets to compare salaries. The way it works is that a sheet is shared (like an online Excel file). Contributors can anonymously drop details into unlocked cells (salary, age, gender, ethnicity) and the sheet will produce a live average of salaries for each role. The latest data suggests that black employees are earning significantly less than white colleagues for doing the same job
Grindr told their employees to return to the office 2 days a week or lose their jobs. Last week the firm fired the 46% of the employees who didn't come back. None of the firm’s 8 trans employees returned to the office (they would have had to relocate): remote work is a D&I issue
“Only 10 colleagues showed up”: Are you finding that after work social activities are proving increasingly difficult to organise? - I’m not sure if this Wall Street Journal piece reflects trend that are more American than British as I’ve heard positive stories about work socialising in the UK
This is brilliant about how firms are approaching AI: 1) ignore it (allowing forward-looking workers to dazzle colleagues), 2) ban it (maybe because head office sends an instruction), 3) centralise it (which seems to be just about the best way to kill AI’s benefits)
It’s hugely off topic but I’m obsessed with the kids’ books of Jon Klassen. I read a new one by him this week called The Skull which is a dark and mysterious story to gift an under 10 if you ever get the misfortune of having to attend a kid’s birthday party. The Rock from the Sky and the Hat books are also incredible
Two new podcasts firstly - from last week - we chatted to Libby Sander who has researched the impact our office has on us…
Then, as I mentioned above, we talk to Catherine Price, the author of The Power of Fun about recalibrating our lives.
While I spend my week working on the Eat Sleep Work Repeat podcast and this newsletter I actually pay my bills by speaking. If you have an event that you’re looking for a headline speaker, please do get in touch. I tend to talk on three content themes:
The Joy of Work: How can teams (and leaders) get their mojo back and deal with the demands of modern work? Better workplace culture starts here.
Understanding Resilience: My book on resilience, Fortitude, was described by the Financial Times as the 'best business book of the year'.
Leadership in the Hybrid Era: The nature of management has transformed in the last three years, and is set for even greater challenges ahead. How should firms prepare leaders to inspire greatness from their teams?
In the last two years I’ve worked with Microsoft, Marks & Spencer, JP Morgan, HSBC, TikTok, Google, Kelloggs, Amazon, Red Bull and lots more.
Corporate work culture in 4 tweets: