Creating Joy at Work - Creative Spark
Engage Magazine Summer 2022

Creating Joy at Work

By Katie Wade, Senior Director of Creative Engagement, and Jessica McCracken, Director, Covia’s Creative Spark

By now, you’ve noticed that you aren’t the same person you were before the pandemic and global events of the past two years. Perhaps you’ve taken inventory of the physical and emotional toll that you, your loved ones, coworkers, and residents have experienced. The list of losses is long and some days, we cannot shoulder the weight.  It’s no surprise then, that re-emerging isn’t as simple as flipping a switch. We’ve heard staff lament that residents are not coming to programs as they once did. Staff are leaving and positions remain unfilled in a time where the need for qualified talent couldn’t be higher. Leaders are uncertain how to support staff who are beyond exhausted, especially when they themselves are equally weary. And of course, we are all unsure of how to navigate next steps. It’s our first time rising from a pandemic amidst global distress.

We do have some clues about how to do this – together. Elders who’ve walked ahead of us have shown that centering a culture of joy will strengthen our resiliency and allow us to move forward, dare we say, better than before? Think of all the civil rights movements, wars, recessions, the many sufferings of generations past and present. Was it sheer strength of will that brought people through the difficulties, into new ways of being? No. It has been, time and time again, a community bound together through joy. A collective commitment to magnifying the small, daily moments that bring us awe, wonder, and delight. 

One Creative Spark trainee made the astute connection, “I have learned about the relationship between longevity and joy. I have seen it in the elders of my community where joy leads to an enhanced quality of life and isolation has challenged well-being. The same goes for staff, joyful staff have longevity in the work.” In an already overly-stretched work environment, and doubly so in a pandemic, it is critical to utilize the power of creative thinking to discover the role of joy in our work experience. Moving forward in joy won’t hinge on one-time events, bonuses, or other large displays of gratitude. It will happen in the many small moments that make up our workdays, because that is where workplace culture is created – the in-between moments. A joyful work culture is directly connected to staff and resident satisfaction. Leaders at all levels need to be intentional about making their organizations, their communities, a place where people (staff and residents alike) want to be. 

In addition to the many physical benefits joy brings from a boosted immune system, stress reduction, and lowered blood pressure, a joyful workplace encourages productivity (12 percent increase!), team cohesion, and helps create a culture where everyone – from staff to residents – wants to be. This gets to the heart of why we should center joy. The culture of our organizations depends on intentionality around the psychosocial health of our members. The well-being of our residents is directly related to how well our staff is functioning. 

How do we operationalize joy? To foster healthy workplaces, three key areas need to be addressed: create kind spaces (both physically and emotionally) by encouraging staff to bring their whole, authentic selves to work; imbue workplace duties with meaning, and generate trust through leaders who prioritize well-being at every level of the organization. From a wide-ranging set of literature and lived experiences, we’ve culled a few creative, practical tips to get you started on imbuing your culture with more joy.

  1. Inject humor. Think it’s silly to send a cat video to your coworker? Think again. In a virtual world, we have to be more intentional about moments of humor, so don’t be afraid to pop a funny gif into a spreadsheet for your coworker to find later. Or take a fun cue from StoryPoint Senior Living.
  2. Listen and reflect. Be sure to let others know that you really see them. We like to listen for quotable moments from residents and staff, write them on a sticky note at our desk, and let the person know that they are on the quote wall.
  3. Pause. Those who have creative practices will know the importance of pausing because it is in these spaces where we reflect and discover what is most meaningful. Take five to 10 minutes at the start of a meeting or resident activity to ask a Beautiful Question. Or try scheduling a tea break with someone via Zoom. 

For more tips, download and share our guide here

What we focus on, magnifies. Focusing on creating and sharing joy leads to a culture that celebrates the individual while supporting shared purpose and trust. It’s a culture that supports the aging process because joy creates resiliency, lending us a compass to navigate life’s many changes. Here’s to more joy in our work!