Bring More Joy Into The Workplace in 2019

It’s a new year – welcome 2019!

In the spirit of making the year ahead better than the last, I search for ways to improve my work performance, physical and emotional health, and relationships. That is why I was excited to read one of my new books from The Next Big Idea Club, Joyful, by Ingrid Fetelle Lee. You may also want to check out her TED Talk.

The author makes a case for how the physical world can be a powerful resource in creating happier, healthier lives. There is a body of research demonstrating a link between our physical surroundings and our mental health. One story centers around Edi Rama, who, in 2000, was elected Mayor of Tirana, the capital of Albania. Tirana had become a haven for corruption, with garbage piled along the streets. “The city was dead” after being under Communist rule. Edi Rama began reviving the city by painting the buildings bright colors. Those vibrant colors brought joy to the residents and ultimately brought the city back to life because there was now a sense of hope and joy.

Who doesn’t want more joy in their life?

What’s joy? The book defines joy as “an intense, momentary experience of positive emotion.” It’s a high-energy form of happiness.

Consider the environments of our institutional buildings like schools, hospitals, nursing homes, government/office buildings. What do they look like? Most are drab colors, angular, box-like architecture, with small windows. These features represent the OPPOSITE of what people see as joyful spaces.

Ingrid’s research also found common themes across a variety of cultures, about what tangible objects bring joy.

What do joyful spaces look like? Let’s use Disney World as an example. Disney is full of bright colors; nature abounds in the outdoor parks, sunshine, unique structures, sparkly lights, glitter, confetti, and an abundance of candy or other yummy treats.

Granted, it may not make sense for office space to feel like Disney. But Ingrid explains how to bring some elements of that joy-like environment into our homes and workspaces. Research shows that those joyful aesthetics at work make people more alert, confident, and friendlier, which promotes better collaboration.

While you may not be the decision-maker about the design of your work environment, there are some design elements you can integrate into your home and work environments that promote joyful aesthetics. Here are my favorites:

  • Bright/Bold Color – We are typically afraid to select paint colors that are outside the neutral tones. Don’t be afraid to use bright colors and if you can’t choose the paint color, integrate the use of colors in accessories. Even dressing in bright colors, particularly in the dark winter months will give you and those around you a boost.
  • Harmony – This is about de-cluttering and organizing your space. Color-coding files, creating symmetry and opening up the traffic flow in furniture arrangement. Organize your desk so that it feels welcoming, not overwhelming when you come into work. Tidy spaces can reduce anxiety and create calm.
  • Surprise – In the day-to-day grind, we can fall into mundane routines, which is why a sense of surprise can really spice things up and even expand our way of thinking. Try painting a bright color inside cabinets, use fun-patterned shelf paper, or bring in some quirky decorative items for your office. Wearing whimsical socks, scarves, or bright eye-glasses can also bring an element of surprise.
  • Celebration – When we accomplish something, it’s worth celebrating. Think about what you often see at celebratory events: Balloons, fireworks, sparkly lights, confetti, disco balls, and upbeat music. Not all of these elements are appropriate for the office environment, but my key takeaway is this. Take time to celebrate your team’s “wins,” birthdays, and anniversaries. Bring in balloons, sprinkle a desk with confetti, or even send a congratulatory email/text with a .gif of a fireworks display.  By the way, these all are circular, which has long been symbols of harmony, wholeness, and like the knights of the round table, gives equal weight to every position.

If you’re not sure what brings YOU joy, Ingrid Fetell Lee has a Joyfinding Worksheet in her book. It offers the opportunity to explore the places, people, things, and activities that bring you joy. It’s a marvelous first step in bringing more joy into your life in 2019!

Martha Duesterhoft if a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or send her something joyful at