Workplaces are not synonymous with joy. According to Gallup and everyone else who measures this stuff, 85% of the global workforce is not engaged or actively disengaged. This is concerning enough on its own, but Gallup has also found that great workplaces literally change the world. According to HBR’s Rosbeth Moss Kanter, the act or feeling of joy is an element of great places to work. When I asked my digital community for advice and examples, it took less than an afternoon for a thread of inspiring, touching and hilarious comments to blow up my news feed. From the simplest to the most complex, here at 12 ways to bring more joy to your workplace.


This is literally the thing that you have the most control over, so make it count. And, hey, you don’t have to smile every single day all the time. The point is that smiles are contagious and sometimes we’re so caught up in our career progression and being “professional” (whatever that means) that we forget to bring a little humanity to work. So, make an effort to shine a smile towards at least two people today.

Show you care

There were a lot of comments about the importance of recognition. From giving compliments to taking folks for coffee, many folks highlighted how simple it is to bring joy to colleagues with simple acts of kindness. Offering to coach or mentor someone through a problem will take a bit more time, but there is something truly magical that happens when you preface feedback by saying “I am telling you this because I care about you.” But the post that generated the most buzz was from my friend Evan, who works in construction and shared some stories about simple acts of kindness that helps his crew build their own toolkits.

Bring [insert awesome thing/human] to work

I have yet to work in an organization where people do not love it when someone brings a dog to work – bringing babies and kids to the office (probably not the construction site) inspires joy, too, but some folks get a bit awkward around kids. Just in case you want to pitch this idea to your manager, here’s Fast Company’s definitive list of reasons employees should be allowed to bring pets to work. Oh, and food. Bring delicious food to work and/or the ingredients to make food collaboratively, such as the components of sandwiches.

Empower the social committee

The social/culture committee in my department is called #SoCrew and they’re an awesome, diverse and self-directed team. The events and activities that they organize get people talking to each other and bust up the silo-based loneliness of work. Bringing joy to work at scale isn’t easy, so task a team to own this important part of your culture.

Play together

Board games, book clubs, escape rooms, karaoke, and dodgeball are fun activities that are mostly accessible for everyone. No matter what my friend David S tells you, do not engage in light wrestling with colleagues as an antidote for Monday morning energy shortfalls. Here are a few games to try. Two of my colleagues dropped nicknames, funny phrases and a whole lot of laughter into webinars that focuses on very important, but very dull, technical systems. Laughing with each other not only makes us feel great, but it also enhances our ability to learn and reduces stress, too.

Go outside

Set a goal to have as many meetings as possible outside and on the move. Exercise enhances our mood and there are scientific benefits, such as enhancing memory and mental energy, that we get from spending time in nature. I hope that you can see some green somewhere near where you work.

Value and demonstrate safety

A couple of friends commented on “reducing the creep factor” as a foundational need for inspiring joy in the workplace. People need to feel safe and comfortable before they can experience joy, so whether you’re a manager or a leader without a title, don’t put up with creepy, gross of bullying behaviour. If you see something, say something.

Build beautiful, functional workspaces

Jacob Morgan writes about a lot of things in his book The Employee Experience and one of those things is the importance of having beautiful, functional workplaces if your goal is to bring joy to peoples’ lives at work. “It’s not about just giving employees a desk and computer, it’s about creating a space where they feel welcome and comfortable and can do their best work,” says Morgan.

Redefine the workday

I’ve written about this before: the 9-5 workday is outdated and ineffective. It shouldn’t be a thing. A mentor and role model, Brenda, highlighted some examples of organizations that lock-out employees from email at the end of the workday and don’t provide them with access while they’re on vacation. This way folks can truly disconnect.

Redefine work

My friend and life role model, Robin offered that joy is hard to find when the pace and volume of work feel overwhelming. And my friend and brain/hair icon, David K, invited some reflection on why the type of work really matters when we consider what brings us joy. For example, I thrive when making many human connections about transformational work and ideas during the day, especially if it also involves presenting something. Such things might be exhausting or too complex for someone who finds joy in mundane tasks or ones that connect her with lines of code more than human beings.

Inspire peoples’ true self

We are more likely to experience joy when we can bring our whole, true selves to work. My friend and self-discovery/emoji mentor, Genia, ideated that organizations that think of employees as human beings first and workers or resources second will always be differentiated as leaders in their communities. This is an utterly awesome and complex aspiration, as one person’s joyful behaviour or practice might trample another’s. My best advice is to create the conditions where people feel inspired to express themselves and then foster connections between folks who share interests and passions. Then watch the magic happen!

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