One of the biggest differences between my past life and present is my work situation. Not so much the office environment, which is still very much standard – cupboards and cubicles, with a shared kitchen, meeting rooms and bland corporate palette – but the interactions between the employees. My office in Australia is populated with a friendly, energetic group of individuals who hail from diverse backgrounds and have a genuine interest in learning about and spending time with one another. Our roles require us to work and get the job done, but we also choose to spend time socialising, both at and outside of the office. This stands in stark contrast to the very serious, very corporate approach my colleagues in the US used to take – turn up to work early in the morning, work, work, work (and then work some more – while taking lunch at your desk), and then head straight home.
In two years, I have bonded with this group more than I did with many of the people I worked with for six years in the States. The funny thing is that I honestly believe the caliber of work here as compared with home is as high or even higher. I suspect Alexander Kjerulf, who calls himself the Chief Happiness Officer, would likely agree with me. In his list of the Top 10 Reasons Why Happiness at Work is the Ultimate Productivity Booster, he explain the ‘clear link’ between happiness and productivity, and also makes suggestions on how individuals can boost their levels.
I acknowledge that many respected surveys and statistics related to productivity fall in contrast with what I am saying, as the US typically rates as the highest for worker productivity when measured against other global powers. In fact, it is timely that I write this post now, with it being March and the typical wave of articles about lost productivity related to viewing of NCAA March Madness games making headlines.
A recent Atlanta Journal Constitution blog post states that $192 million could be lost as a result of the distraction. But, as that post and most of this year’s articles go on to state, the folks at Challenger, Grey & Christmas put this year’s figure lower than those in the past (in large part due to the accessibility and portability of information, thanks to iPhones and the like). They state that, when put in perspective, the number only represents a loss of .07 percent of the total hours that American workers will log over the three works of the tournament.
So, in the end, it seems to be much adieu about nothing. And I say it is a small price to pay for the happiness, sanity and work-life balance of employees. The US is so very good at so much, but there is also something to be learned from other cultures. And I, for one, am happy to be working in a country and an office environment where I feel motivated to wake up each day and do my best work.