The path won't be straightforward; discussions of workplace culture in recent years have been distracted by misdirection and marketing. Compelling speakers such as Simon Sinek have told us to seek to answer not what we do but why we do it. Answering the question 'why' is certainly important—as we'll go on to see, when we are driven by a sense of purpose, motivation isn't hard to find. But finding purpose alone doesn't seem to be the answer to making work a happier place. The teaching profession is one of the most clearly purpose-driven occupations—teachers know the answer to why they chose their vocation—and yet nearly half a million American teachers move or quit the profession each year. The Alliance for Excellent Education reported that "forty to fifty percent of new teachers leave the profession in their first five years." To some extent, while answering the question why can get us up in the morning, we need to answer how for us to feel we can work sustainably in (and feel rewarded by) our jobs.
Firms have also used workplace culture as a marketing channel. Photographs of neon-colored slides cascading through offices can make our own workplace seem uninspiringly inert by contrast. In this book, I attempt to separate the aspects of company culture that can help us create meaningful work from the parts that are just hyped-up, caffeinated spin.
My own journey to unearthing the insights afforded us by workplace psychology began when I started my weekend breaks from my day job as a vice president at Twitter with running a podcast on making work better. That podcast, Eat Sleep Work Repeat, began as a passion project, and my motivation was more self-education than reaching a large audience, but the show soon became a number one business podcast in the United Kingdom (with regular excursions into the US top ten). An opportunity to pick the brains of experts in organizational psychology—the people who really understand what makes workplaces tick—helped me to start building a manifesto of changes to modern working. The response to my UK publication was extraordinary. Police forces, nurses, lawyers, and bank workers got in touch, saying how they had used the work to help improve their working lives.
I have discovered that there is no shortage of science, research, and investigation regarding what makes work more fulfilling. It's just that none of the evidence ever seems to reach people doing everyday jobs. In this book, I've therefore distilled the wisdom of experts into thirty simple changes that people can try out for themselves or suggest at a team meeting. Some are changes I've long been familiar with and have used successfully myself. Others are useful correctives to bad habits I'd developed and that I'd noticed in others. A few may seem perversely counterintuitive—but they do work.
Our jobs—no matter what they are—can help give meaning to our lives. While we might be reluctant to profess our fondness for them, we should never be ashamed of feeling proud of being made happy by our work.
I hope this book helps you love where you work again.
For all that he could project a carefree calm, Julian was a man under pressure. Everywhere he looked, there were demands and rising expectations being placed upon him: people phoning him just to "check in," but with a couple of extra notes of insistency in their voice; colleagues anxious to hear what he'd come up with in his latest creative sessions. Most of us probably think our jobs are way too humble to be compared with those of rock stars, but the lessons we can learn from Julian Casablancas are an important step in helping us to enjoy our own jobs again. Let's take a step back and tell his story.
The Strokes' first album, Is This It, was a massive critical and commercial hit from the moment of its release in 2001. A score of 91 percent put it in the top forty albums of all time on the Metacritic website. The Guardian rated it as one of the top five albums of the decade, and NME (New Musical Express) considered it the fourth best ever and sighed that the band could "save rock." A critic for Rolling Stone magazine said it was "more joyful and intense than anything else I've heard this year" and described it as "the stuff of which legends are made." Within a year, the band was playing sold-out shows in the most prestigious concert halls across the world.
As with most debut albums from unknown artists, the creation process was unglamorous. The Strokes—a five-piece group originating in New York—had recorded the album in a raw, stripped-back recording studio in the basement of a lower East Side apartment in Manhattan. Sole songwriting duty on the record fell to lead singer Julian Casablancas, his preoccupation with penning new anthems leaving him the unfortunate owner of only the fourth-best haircut in the ensemble. But the end result, though knowingly informed by musical nods to garage rock and music from the 1960s and 1970s, was also fresh. And as the Strokes toured and promoted the record over the next year, they quickly built a passionate fan base. Soon, talk was turning to what the next album would be like.