Google or Giggle?

July 11, 2011 at 11:41 AM

Recently I went to see a prospective client in a large multi-national company. As the PA led me to the meeting room I had to pass through an enormous room with about 30 people sitting at work stations – all in complete silence.

It reminded me of the time I was appointed as CEO of a company staffed with young and dynamic people, sitting at work stations – all in complete silence. The only form of communication was via email or instant messaging.

Open plan offices were created in an attempt to create greater communication between people, but I think that they have had the opposite effect. Is anybody going to discuss new thoughts or ideas while they can be overheard by other people? Are people going to pick up the phone to talk to clients or suppliers when all their colleagues can tune in? Is anybody going to break the silence?

Before open plan offices, and certainly at the start of my career, people worked in small groups and certain offices were the ones that people popped into to discuss ideas and, yes, to gossip and, showing my age, to have a smoke and a cup of coffee. It was these ad hoc meetings that turned up any number of new ideas and creative thoughts and helped to forge strong and long-lasting personal relationships too.

However, the main thing that seems to be lacking in these open plan spaces is laughter; they seem such soulless places to work and the absence of laughter was the thing that struck me most when I joined the company. My solution was to put the ‘noisier’ people (actually the sales team) in the middle of the room, knowing that they had to speak to people on the phone and the Sales Director, a larger-than-life American, was briefed to be loud, tell jokes and just chat to people. A role he filled admirably! It changed the whole atmosphere of the office and, surprise, surprise, our business actually improved.

Of course there is a view that with all the financial pressures on companies these days laughter is a distraction from the ‘real job’. However, a recent study conducted at Canadian financial institutions found that managers who facilitated the highest level of employee performance used humour the most often.

The scientific data is also proving that laughter is an integral part of physical wellness. Dr. William Fry of Stanford University found that laughing 200 times burns off the same amount of calories as 10 minutes on a rowing machine. Another study found that after a bout of laughter, blood pressure drops to a lower, healthier level than before the laughter began. Laughter also oxygenates your blood, thereby increasing energy level, relaxes your muscles and works out all your major internal systems like the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Should managers focus more on making work fun?  In a recent survey by Industrial Work and Training group, conducted with managers from a variety of organisations the respondents reported that when there is fun in the workplace:

people enjoy coming to work

they are more motivated

they enjoy better relationships with one another

there is better communication

there is more cohesiveness and team spirit

morale is higher

and the workplace atmosphere is conducive for creative problem-solving

Perhaps it’s time to get away from the computer screen and focus more on laughter!


Tags: Executive Coaching Google Laughter in the workplace Happier in the workplace

Please add a comment

Posted by Ritesh on
In addition to the praevntvtiee measures suggested by Gail, I would also recommend ensuring session dates are predetermined and published prior to the first session. Availability for the next session should be confirmed by the group at the end of each session. If everyone agreed on the posted dates and this issue arises, I would ask, What is the impact to the team when members are absent? After allowing time for responses, I would follow with, What would the group like to do about it? One of the teams I was coaching answered the first question with, What do frequent absences communicate about our commitment to the process and to solving the problem?
Posted by Honeysuckle on
Never would have thunk I would find this so inenepsisabld.
Posted by Honeysuckle on
Never would have thunk I would find this so inenepsisabld.
Posted by Honeysuckle on
Never would have thunk I would find this so inenepsisabld.
Posted by Carrieann on
It's wouefrdnl to have you on our side, haha!
Posted by Carrieann on
It's wouefrdnl to have you on our side, haha!
Posted by Carrieann on
It's wouefrdnl to have you on our side, haha!
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