2 Oct 2023

Why you should bring love into the office.

Food for thought: when was the last time you asked your peers and collaborators what they love the most about their job? When was the last time you were asked, or asked yourself?

Even though the title of this article may have misled you, it is not about introducing you to new ways of celebrating Valentine's Day—that's still months away, and we are just mentioning it to include this The Office episode on this blog post as a treat.

The Office — Valentine's Day

With love, Significa.

In reality, the following words reflect on the importance of bringing love into the office, in hopes that this "trend" is here to stay (and hopefully from wherever you are reading this from too).

All About Love.

Before we discuss how to bring love into the professional sphere of our lives, we should first consider its definition. I believe no one has done this better than bell hooks in her book All About Love: New Visions, where she defines it as an act of will, both an intention and an action.

“Love as 'the will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth. […] To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients — care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.”

bell hooks

Writer of All About Love: New Visions

Love is not just romantic mimicry. It is about nurturing each other and our communities. We all move through multiple social spheres, but one of the biggest communities in our lives is that of our work environment and all that it entails. Our professions are a huge part of our everyday lives, massively intertwined with our identities, and, therefore, an essential component of our well-being.

After the COVID-19 pandemic hit us globally, fuelling already existing movements such as quiet quitting and the great resignation, companies were (are) desperate to find solutions to fight against its consequences, so the ingredients that compose loving (as aforementioned) were finally being paid proper attention to.

As a result, an array of articles and books flooded the internet, with corporations of all scales looking at love as a business strategy. Here are some examples of the latter:

These may give you the self-help book cringies (if you are one to have them), but truth be told: dealing with our emotions individually and collectively is not exactly something one learns at school. We all instinctively know it is essential to have discussions about how we feel in our private relationships (again, the romanticisation of feelings floods media everywhere) — but often, there is a disregard for the need for it in professional spheres, too. It is as if we forget that we are complex humans 24/7, not just when we are in the privacy of our homes with friends and family.

Therefore, it is urgent to learn how to communicate openly and honestly — especially when it may feel like the likelihood of offending someone with our words is greater than ever (everything has its ups and downs, including adapting to and nurturing different realities than ours).

CEO vs Chief Love Officer.

Chief Love Officer sounds a lot like CEO, right? Well, it's on purpose. The premise is that a CEO is in charge of a business, but a CLO does this by bringing love to its forefront, leading by it (rather than by profit, for example). The first person to coin the term was Mia Kyricos, a globally respected thought leader in the wellness and brand strategy business with 25 years of experience. Here's a masterclass that will get your pandemic zoom call PTSD blasting — but it's worth it, pinky promise.

Love as a Business Strategy

A master class by the first Chief Love Officer ever.

I first encountered Mia and the concept of CLO when I read Cristina Amaro's book Chief Love Officer, launched in 2023. The book has now become a YouTube series in which Cristina speaks to different personalities, and together, they explore love as a business strategy.

I was pleased to discover that the strategies these two brilliant women propose are similar to those we already implement at Significa.

Moreover, what they identify as the biggest obstacle to implementing love strategies—communication—has been identified by ourselves as our Achilles heel as we held our company-wide one-week collaboration workshop, aka Eggceptional Week, earlier this year in January, April, and July.

The Happiness Business.

Much like any global trend, this whole love, happiness mambo jambo can become a trap if the hard work it takes to effectively implement changes is not taken seriously enough. In her talk Championing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Strategies for Creating an Inclusive Workplace at this year's edition of Happiness Camp in Porto, Sunaina Kohli urged the crowd, "You listen, but you need to be prepared to act!"

HOW? is the resulting burning question.

[Pictured above on the left is Bavaroise’s installation: an explosion of happiness to decorate the halls of Alfândega at the Happiness Camp conference. Funny how we seem to associate happiness with fireworks when such is not always the case, don't you think? On the right is a picture of a European classic "tear child" gimmicky painting, spotted at the conference as well, contrasting with the theme… isn't happiness made of tears sometimes, too?]

Besides Chief Love Officer, Chief Happiness Officer is another title that is spreading quickly. The business of love is flourishing so much there are even courses to teach Happiness targeted at CEOS, HR Managers, Directors, or whoever wants to positively transform their work culture. Such is the case of Happiness School, which offers an MBA in Organisational Happiness.

This course introduces precisely the need to understand the why, the what, and the how of emotions, offering methodologies and tools for developing an integrated and holistic plan for happiness in organisations.

Never having enrolled in one, I am not comfortable issuing any opinion on the validity of these courses. But to me, one thing is for sure: happiness resides in seeing and being seen, in hearing and being heard, and in not forgetting about our emotional, human nature. Within the professional sphere, this can be applied to knowing where we are and where we are going. It is about fostering being in the Flow.

The Flow.

Fostering happiness involves nurturing and safeguarding it, as it's not a perpetual state of being.

In 1970, psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, one of the co-founders of the field of positive psychology, coined the term FLOW, also known as “being in the zone.” FLOW entails a deep sense of enjoyment and satisfaction from performing a particular task. It is when productivity is heightened, as the task at hand is neither too hard nor too easy for the executor. It is when time flies by.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi's model of flow as related to challenge and ability.

Needless to say, a state of flow is not a perpetual one, and perhaps one feels it only with hobbies and other leisureful activities outside of a “productive” context, BUT if it entails focus and happiness, why not consider it in the professional context as well? How can it be fostered for the well-being of each one of us? Studies show that implementing measures such as establishing a goal and feedback oriented work culture culture are two ways to go at it.

Read more on this topic on the article Fostering flow experiences at work: a framework and research agenda for developing flow interventions, published by Karen Bartholomeyczik, Michael T. Knierim and Christof Weinhardt.

Sustainable Happiness.

"You need to give people goals so they can act" was another gem shared by Sunaina Kohli at the aforementioned Happiness Camp.

At Significa, we have brought plants into the office, fresh fruit aplenty, big luminous windows, AC, standing desks, and heaps of other benefits to empower everyone to do their best work. But what is having a greater impact on our collaboration is not only holding team-wide workshops every now and then but also drafting Career Paths and Development Plans for each one of us.

Culture Amp is the internal tool we use to keep track of Career Paths and Development Plans.

This is how it works: each person is part of a Department. In our case, it's Design, Engineering, Product & Project and Business & Operations. Each has a department Lead with whom monthly one-on-ones are to be held. These are not supposed to be an update on tasks’ statuses but an analysis of how the plan is being pursued and what should be done to further activate it.

The Development Plan is owned by the individual. It is not about goals being set by leads, it is about that individual's own aspirations to achieve the goals they wish to achieve in order to accelerate their growth. The individual assesses their plan with their Lead, then once it's all aligned, and the Lead has given their own contributions to the plan, it's activated, and momentum is built through regular one-on-ones to assess progress, challenges, successes and any support required to nail those goals.

This way, we are able to have a culture where the individual is focused on something they actually want to work towards, the company has motivated and driven employees, and our culture is nurtured that centres on a growth and continual development mindset, increasing performance, engagement, and ultimately… happiness.

As I discussed the content of this article with some coworkers, we reflected on the paradox of happiness — how it seems both natural and elusive, simple and complex, unique yet grounded in common principles. It should come naturally, but in actuality, if there is no plan put together to achieve it, the likelihood of it being sustainable is that of seeing a falling star in the night sky — it is likely, technically, but sometimes you go hours, days, or years without it.

On the other hand, it seems weird to reduce happiness to “something” we can foster, learn, and/or practice. Happiness isn’t the same for everyone, and sometimes, it seems like we either simplify it or overcomplicate it.

“The bottom line is that a bit of common sense and emotional intelligence go a long way…However, as companies grow in size and complexity, these become harder to implement. So nurturing happiness becomes urgent!”

Estepheny Abreu

Designer at Significa

Here's to loving, happiness and everything in between!

Ana Fernandes

Brand Manager

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While others struggle to keep up, Ana effortlessly leaps from one thing to the next in a turbo-charged, blazing fast, whirlwind of flaming ideas and effortless creativity. Well, you know, the Project Manager role was simply too dull for the likes of Ana. So abracadabra, don't blink or you'll miss her, the Brand Manager she is.

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