I recently watched the new Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. It features Marie and her KonMari Method™. The premise of the method is to “tidy up” by category, beginning with clothing and moving group by group until you reach sentimental items. You begin by taking inventory of what you have, and then for each item, you consider whether the thing offers heartfelt value to your life and a place in your ideal future – in other words, whether it “sparks joy.” If it doesn’t, it is recognized for its historical role and then discarded.
It’s almost a reverse-Maslowian approach to clearing distraction from your life by eliminating things, moving from the least to the most meaningful possessions. It’s not an easy thing to do. In the show, Marie goes into people’s homes to act as a guide as they tidy their lives in an effort to focus on joy.
After spending far too many hours watching other people declutter, I began to question every item in my own home. The process was interesting and useful but seemed like only part of the equation for me. I turned the consideration to my work, pondering whether my career sparks joy. What place does my work have in my ideal future?
The boundaries between personal and professional lives continue to blur. Freelance employment is estimated to represent 80% of the global talent pool by 2030. Groups like Ladies who Work Remote are popping up around the country, spurred by the success of Meetups, the emergence of co-working spaces, and that growing number of people pursuing their desire to work independently. Even full-time employees have more choices than ever in where and how we work.
It stands to reason that we would hold our professional lives to similar expectations of producing joy and fulfillment. (If I can expect a pair of socks or a kitchen whisk to bring me joy, you better believe that I can find joy in creating a strategy for workforce agility or sitting in a working session to develop a Point of View on the future of business resiliency.) If there comes the point at which that joy is no longer there, the time has come to thank the job for the experience and move on.
Here’s the common thing about our possessions and professions. The joy we have in them does not happen haphazardly. It requires a commitment to find it, hard work to cultivate it, and discipline to evaluate it.
Because joy is incredibly personal, there is no one thing an organization can do that will keep everyone happy and fulfilled at work. That’s a road with no destination except frustration. Instead, organizations can provide a flexible environment where people are encouraged and empowered to identify, pursue, and create their own joy through the work they do.
As I considered my career, I was able to spotlight three main ways I find joy at work:
Joy in the impact I have.
Joy can come from a belief in your company’s purpose and sharing in an effort to work toward a higher cause. It also can come from having the ability to influence and work with those whom your work serves directly. There’s joy in knowing how you’ve helped bring a product to fruition or improved someone’s day through the service you offer.
Joy in what I do.
One of the most important takeaways from the KonMari Method is understanding that joy can come from even the most mundane items. We can find joy in the big things and small things. It might be a little satisfaction like organizing your inbox, a quotidian victory like convening a group of people who have individually crazy schedules, or a giant impact like launching an organizational strategy.
Joy in my colleagues.
It’s probably relatively common to find that the satisfaction in work tasks can vary. A constant source of joy for me is surrounding myself with people who spark joy for me. They are a reminder of the types of people I strive to be and want to be in my future. For organizations, the impact that people can have on one another in the workplace makes it critical to foster a culture that encourages employees to bring their authentic self to work.
Your employees and contractors are people. If the wild popularity of The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up, Spark Joy, and Tidying Up with Marie Kondo are any indication, those people are thinking hard about what to discard and what to keep in their lives. It stands to reason that they will evaluate how their work measures up and that many will seek a work environment where they can focus on joy and the achievement of their ideal future. If your organization is not already looking at strategies to become more employee-focused and human-centric, the time is now. It will have a direct impact on your ability to recruit and retain your ideal employees.
How are you designing employee experiences that facilitate joy?
Is yours a place where your employees want to work?
At Toffler, we’re privileged to talk about the ideal future on a daily basis – we have the chance to understand what’s driving change and how to adapt to prepare for this future. As we work to create these ideal futures, it is important to remember that work is about more than just the bottom line or the next corporate initiative. Work can be a very real, very powerful spark of joy in our lives.