Increasingly, many people feel trapped by the monotony of the nine to five routine.
But working life needn’t be utterly dispiriting.
Bruce Daisley, Twitter executive and author of a new book on office culture, reveals why as he tells Alice Hinds the Honest Truth about the modern workplace.
Why did you decide to write The Joy of Work?
Let’s not mince words, work is way less enjoyable than it used to be. Up to half of all office workers report feeling burned out, and it’s way higher in the NHS and schools. The Mental Health Foundation said that 77% of Scots felt overwhelmed by stress at some point in 2018 and the main cause was work.
Work is less satisfying and more stress-inducing than ever before. I was seeing that first-hand with the people I worked with. I started researching what could be done, and I was astonished how much evidence there was against the way we’re working today.
What’s been your worst job?
You’ll never do a harder job than running fries or burger make-up in fast food. Burger make-up is unrelenting and an intense test of your short-term memory. Every request for “no pickle” is dizzying when you’re cooking, dressing and wrapping dozens of burgers a minute.
I think once you’ve worked a rush hour in McDonald’s, you’ll never regard any other job as hard.
What’s it really like to work in the Twitter office – is it really as cool as everyone imagines?
We laugh every day and I don’t take that for granted. We’ve definitely had difficult times but I think there’s a lot of people who work there who know we work with incredibly brainy people who all want to make Twitter the best product it can possibly be.
While I’ve written a book about work culture, it’s not just for bosses. I see it as a “troublemakers’ manifesto” – it’s a book that gives evidence to passionate people about how they can improve their work.
I don’t think innately tech firms should be regarded as any cooler than other firms – we just need to help everyone get to a position where they’re able to take time to enjoy them again.
What’s the most interesting fact you’ve learned about office work while doing your research?
I was blown away to discover that our creativity is killed by stress.
Our brains are not designed to be expansive when we’re worried about things. Imagine a painter going to her easel – she’d never do it when she’s anxious or in a hurry.
But we turn up at our desks riddled with cortisol and adrenalin and imagine that inspiration will gush forth.
What is the monk mode morning?
As a professor of computer science, Cal Newport became very aware that dipping in and out of work left him stressed and very unproductive.
He found that we tended to get as much done as a complete day of switching if we killed all interruptions and had one hour of monastic silence.
Monk mode morning is an interruption-free 60 minutes of solid, focused work.
It’s worth trying to see how incredibly productive it can be.
Of your 30 tips, what’s the one you personally follow most closely?
The power of human sync has been a spellbinding discovery. The evidence of what we can achieve when we’re doing things alongside others is fascinating. Researchers have seen that the endorphins we get from exercising, singing or dancing with others help us feel more connected to them.
By the same process we can also build that same connection with face-to-face chat and laughter.
I’d always known that laughing in a team felt enjoyable but it was a bonus to discover it’s incredibly powerful for bonding teams together – and for making them more creative.
The Joy of Work, Random House Business Books, £20