How Lego and a Hug can Drive Performance!

image via Dollarclub Photo
image via Dollarclub Photo

Business is a serious business! Trillions of dollars are exchanged every year between businesses, and the results affect the world we live in. We humans have built a world where we’ve gone from exchanging potatoes and produce as currency to trading in money, from gold to physical cash and nowadays through electronic transfer. The stock market has been become almost a living thing in some people’s eyes, and its results can mean that many of us live in fear of a recession and hardships to making hay in the boom times.

The pressures within business can be enormous and affect our personal health based primarily on the financial performance of our companies. Those responsible for managing a profit and loss are always under continual scrutiny from bosses, who in public listed companies are scrutinised by numerous levels of management to finally shareholders and the markets. In more cases than we’d admit to people breakdown under the pressure of work responsibilities, pressure which can ruin people’s lives and even very sadly, in extreme cases end them. Like I said Business is a serious business.

Life is very short. Having turned 45 this week, my life is speeding past and as much as it is cliché to say, we need to savour every moment of it. I love my career and I really enjoy my role and the company I work for. I take my career and my role in managing and delivering a profit and loss for my business very seriously. That does not however mean my team and I cannot find the fun in what we do, enjoy how we deliver success and actually explore how enjoying ourselves benefits our clients, our team and our profits!!

I’ve worked in the construction industry for the past 28 years and for the most part it is a very traditional industry where change takes time and is rarely embraced, especially in the office environment and consultancy arena. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing mentors in my career who are thought leaders and embraced finding the fun in business, rewarding their team with engaging ideas and making sure the team had a damn good time delivering their services for clients.

Generally we all work very hard, long hours away from our families and friends and in this day and age where the buzz words are ‘work life balance’, few of us actually find it. In a time when we are more connected 24/7 than ever with email, phones, iPads and even watches now, it’s almost impossible to turn off.

So what can we do help relieve that stress, improve the balance of enjoyment at work and enhance the satisfaction of doing a damn good job.

Back in the day when there was a bit more money around, companies helped find the fun by having away days, often called jollies! A day or two away to maybe do a bit of strategy but with a lot more down time with drinks and team building activities. They started to get a bad rap but in my opinion they worked. I was fortunate enough to work for a company called Davis Langdon and after the team had been working on the Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt for a few years Davis Langdon sent whole team of twenty odd for a 5 day all expenses paid trip to Cairo and Alexandria. It was a full tourist gig, pyramids, camel rides, sail down the Nile and a trip to the Bibliotheca Alexandria. The whole nine yards. It was fun, educational and I must say, following that trip the team showed loyalty to Davis Langdon for being treated like that of which I have never seen since. But for most of us gone are those days, so we need to make our day to day more engaging.

I’ve recently joined a company where my team’s morale was low. Results were not going our way and as can happen they’d slipped into a dull routine with no fun or pride in what they did, just drudgery. My role was to raise morale, improve business performance and introduce a culture of pride and results. I soon discovered they are an amazing team, so when faced with this challenge, what do you do? Well if you’re me, you introduce fun into the workplace. Slowly at first to get buy in and show how an improved attitude within the office and amongst the team can increase a drive to win work, get out to meet clients and become proud again of the professional skills we deliver as a team. So what does the slow strategy look like? Well first we introduced walls we could write all over. So we painted a lot of the walls with white board paint and encouraged everyone to pick up their markers and write down what they wanted to see in terms of change in the region and the business, added some TED talks to encourage a different way of thinking and we are on our way.

We’ve now introduced some real fun but simple stuff. Bean bags for relaxed Wi-Fi laptop working, play doh in the break out areas with kinetic sand and Lego in all of the meeting rooms. Now, Lego is an amazing product and a genius brand. Let’s take the humble meeting. To get the best results, meetings need to be to the point and engaging. Not sure about the rest of the world but more and more mobile phones are a becoming a major distraction in meetings. Hard to manage as sometimes people might actually be researching what’s being discussed but most of the time it’s a distraction. This is where Lego comes in. Lego has the power to distract people from using their phones but when they build something out of Lego in a meeting they seem to remain engaged in the meeting!! It’s great. Hard to explain why, but I love Lego and how people build great constructions and stay in the moment with the meeting!!

So you add in these little things and most people love being taken back to being a kid and relaxing and finding the fun in their work.

FullSizeRender HM Cropped

Another item we’ve just introduced is the ‘Hug Me’ spot! I first came across a ‘Hug Me’ spot at Swinburne’s Universities Design Factory workshop. A very simple but effective idea. If you’re having a bad day, go stand on the ‘Hug Me’ spot. That opens a contract to be hugged and someone will agree to that contract and come and give you a hug. May sound silly but here are the benefits of a hug:

1. A hug builds trust and a sense of safety. This helps with open and honest communication.

2. Hugs can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.

3. Hugs lifts one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.

4. Hugs strengthen the immune system.

5. Hugging boosts self-esteem.

6. Hugging relaxes muscles.

7. Hugs balance out the nervous system.

8. Hugs teach us how to give and receive.

9. The energy exchange between the people hugging is an investment in the relationship. It encourages empathy and understanding.

10. Hugs are just fun!!

What I love about our ‘Hug Me’ spot is the conversation starters it’s driven. The team loved the idea when we first discussed it, clients and business partners also love the idea and some are visiting just to see and experience the power of the Hug.

Who knows what we will introduce next, but morale is up, business results have improved and we’re having fun!!

So let’s all look for the fun at work and strive to make our lives less stressful and more enjoyable. Let me know what initiatives you’ve started or if you want that hug just pop in and say hello!

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