The Joy of Work by Bruce Daisley– #ICBookClub review

June 4, 2019

Every six weeks we invite you to join us in reading a book, which is chosen by our ICBookClub members, and then discuss the book in a Twitter chat. Our last book was ‘The Joy of Work’ by Bruce Daisley. The book includes 30 ways to fix your work culture and fall in love with your job again. 

We asked three of our committee members for their thoughts on what had really stood out for them in the book. Over to Debbie Aurelius, Noel Armstrong and Martin Flegg for their highlights.

‘Take a walk to get some perspective’ - Debbie Aurelius
It was one of those moments of happy coincidence when the latest CIPR Inside book choice was announced. I’d recently been advised to listen to Bruce Daisley’s ‘Eat Sleep Work Repeat ‘podcast by a podcast guest of mine and I’m particularly interested in the cross over between audio content and written text, so I was glad to have a good reason to read his follow up book, ‘The Joy of Work’. I was even more delighted to find some insightful research and commentary to light the way to more informed decisions about effective communication.
The chapter from the book that haunts me the most is Sync 3, ‘Halve your meetings’ and the story of the PayPal COO closing down ‘unnecessary gatherings’. I was taken by both the compelling use of the Dunbar research into how people react within groups, and the account of the Marshmallow Challenge, to assess the implications they have on dysfunctional behavior in meetings. The idea that most attendees are engaged in a type of social grooming or power play activity goes some way to explaining why meetings just don’t prove as productive as you’d hope they would be. How much more helpful would discussions be if they were focused on achieving a clear purpose and considered forward actions, rather than serving as an opportunity for ‘everyone to try to be the CEO’?
I love the contrast with the very next chapter, ’Create a social meeting’ and its advice to share information informally and constantly, through coffee meetings, ‘Tea Time’ gatherings and more social, face to face conversation. This maybe makes sense of the fact we’re constantly discovering as professional communicators, that face to face interaction comes top of the preference list, regardless of how glitzy the alternatives are. Maybe we instinctively know it facilitates the type of ‘coordinating’ dialogue that enables people in organisations to ‘do something they couldn’t do by themselves’ and achieve that purpose we’re working hard to articulate.
I also wholeheartedly agree with the claims in Recharge 2, that ‘something magical happens’ when you go for a walk. I once worked in a small, highly pressured team inside a large organisation. We had multiple, high profile stakeholders, big deadlines and a lot of change to navigate our way through. Our weekly walking meetings were revelatory. We generally started out by talking, at speed, about immediate work challenges; but somehow the conversation broadened out, as if it could expand to fit the open surroundings, and we were able to take a different perspective on the smaller items. I still remember the sense of achievement from walking out of the office with my team mates in tow and the refreshed sense of understanding we returned with. Thursday lunchtimes haven’t been the same since.

Go to lunch more often’ – Noel Armstrong

Daisley’s book is packed full of ideas to help fix your work culture and fall in love with your job again. In my opinion, internal communicators can find quick wins by deploying some of tips around wellbeing in the section he calls ’Recharge’. I particularly liked the chapters that suggested taking a proper lunch break, having a digital sabbath, and getting a good night’s sleep.
The chapter entitled ‘Go for lunch’ highlighted alarming survey results from BUPA (2015) that found that two thirds of British workers were unable to take even a twenty-minute break for lunch, citing pressure from line managers. This leads to a number of issues including fatigue and long-term health problems. The chapter went on to describe the benefits of taking a proper lunch break – backed by academic research – and they are apparently even more pronounced if you are able to eat lunch with someone else. This leads to reduced stress and an increase in happiness.
Further health benefits were available in the chapter, ‘Have a digital Sabbath’. It wasn’t suggesting you remove yourself from social media for a week or two. It was actually more concerned with the negative effects of email outside of work hours. It highlighted that managers who email their direct reports outside of work hours encouraged them to follow their example. Far from making employees more productive, working excessive hours actually reduces productivity. One of the conclusions suggested not emailing at the weekend, and if you must do it, save the emails as drafts so they are sent when you return to work after the weekend.
The chapter covering sleep is hard to ignore. It begins by claiming that sleep beats everything in terms of its health benefits. It helps us live longer, improves creativity, enhances our memory, protects us from illness and serious diseases, and makes us happier. Armed with this knowledge, there are powerful health benefits for you and the employees you communicate with.

‘Rule your phone to reduce your stress’ – Martin Flegg
‘In most circumstances creativity and stress are the enemies of each other, and when creativity is under the gun, it usually ends up being killed’. This is one of the passages from ‘The Joy of Work’ which has stuck in my head. It sounds like a no brainer, but do we really know when we are being stressed?
A theme which runs through the book is that the modern workplace is a minefield of distractions. It’s just a bad environment for getting anything done. One of the biggest distractions is the Smartphone and its myriad of constant notifications. Whilst the habitual glance at your phone seems harmless enough after it pings yet another alert, it’s actually creating stress and destroying your creativity.
In Recharge 7, Daisley suggests turning off your notifications for 24 hours to help reduce stress and increase creativity. I tried this, but I’m afraid I only managed half a day. It seemed more stressful to me to have to go into all my Apps periodically to see if there was an email or message and I ended up turning the notifications back on. However, what I have done since reading the book is to be far more disciplined in how I use my phone. For example, I have it completely out of my line of sight and on silent now when I am working.
The other phone related tip from the book in Buzz 6 is to ban them from meetings. Not because they are just a distraction, but because some people can be tempted to use them as a character assassination tool to exchange derogatory messages about other attendees in the room. I have witnessed this in some organisations where I have worked. It creates a completely toxic workplace culture which destroys trust. No one wants to work in a place like that.
Finally, I really liked the Swedish concept of ‘Fika’. It’s literally a time in your day to stop and make time to communicate and ‘Sync’ with others, maybe over coffee and cake. It was a reminder to me as an internal communicator, that the most successful communications we can do in organisations are those that emulate how humans naturally communicate.

Thanks to Debbie, Noel and Martin for sharing their thoughts.

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