Everybody’s heard it, and everybody knows it: people spend most of their time at work, so everybody should do (and eat!) what they love. “If you love what you do, you won’t work a day in your life.” But how can we make sure our employees actually love what they do? And, if that wasn’t complicated enough, how can we make sure our employees keep loving what they do when deadlines are creeping up like ninjas, they miss that one breakfast meeting because an alarm didn’t go off and pressure keeps mounting like it’s being held back by the Hoover Dam? Spoiler alert: you don’t get that kind of love when you host a casual Friday here and a happy hour there.
It takes a bit more than that. And we know, we know. This idea is far from revolutionary. This is probably (hopefully?) not the first time you’ve heard of it. But maybe it hasn’t been fully explained the right way, so here goes:
Keep it casual.
Keep things loose.
Have some fun, don’t force stuff.
Because ever since that first scary day mom kicked us out the car to go to Kindergarten, in a building filled with strangers ruled by authoritarian figures we’d never met before, we’ve been told to act like grown-ups. To use indoor voices, use manners. We say screw that. Well, not exactly. More of a “let’s rethink what that means.” Politely, but with emphasis.
It starts with R-E-S-P-E-C-T
Sing it Aretha! The song may have come out in 1967 (true story), but respect doesn’t go out of style. At Chewse, we believe respect means valuing everybody’s opinion, regardless of position. We believe knowing that the world is filled with people who believe different things and come from different backgrounds, and that all of those perspectives are equally valuable. We don’t just have those backgrounds at Chewse – we welcome them. Having varied perspectives in your offices, and learning to respect those perspectives, lets you tap into what people on the outside may think. It might give your designers a new way of looking at what they’re crafting, or help your engineers come up with a solution to a problem they didn’t even know existed.
But once you have those backgrounds, how can you showcase them? How can you foster conversation and engage with the coworkers around you? In most companies, “Casual Friday” is the day everyone lets a little looser and relaxes a little more. At Chewse? We ask: why not have that day (the best day) every day?
After all, it could even give you new ways of thinking about what you do.
Part of respect is empathy
Respect with empathy means being genuinely interested in people’s lives; not faking it. Once you start to get to know people, you inevitably become closer. No, not everybody will be best friends. As much as any company tries to force the concept of family, we shouldn’t pretend, or even want, our work relationships to be anywhere close to the bond we have with our loved ones.
But bonding, laughing, and making jokes is part of the human experience. When people get closer they’re a little looser. They’re less afraid to take risks or speak up when they have a good idea. Sure, there’ll be arguments, and you’ll probably still get pissed off at each other from time to time. But disagreements are a sign of passion, and when you like and respect a person, it’s a lot harder to let feelings of resentment linger.
Moral of the story?
When you like who you work for and with, you respect them. Moreover, you start to realize they respect you too, which means you’re ready tackle that last minute report together or the equally-as-daunting lunch line. Suddenly, you’re willing to put in the extra effort to push from good to great, not because of a sense of need or obligation, but because everybody cares about succeeding as a whole. If it takes a fart joke or three from the resident wiseass to relieve some of the, er, pressure, then let ‘em have at it.
What about clients, investors, customers?
Ah yes, the people in the suits. Well, here’s a dirty little secret: they’re just people too. Everyone likes Casual Friday. Keeping things light and unapologetically human makes people pull for you. They see you as another human with hopes and dreams rather than somebody hustling for money before moving on to the next thing. Talking about sports, or music, or that embarrassing moment when you spilled coffee on shirt your very first day? We shouldn’t be afraid to bring that up. We should be afraid not to, because by closing us off from ourselves, we close the door to meaningful connections.
After all, everybody wants to see the good in people – even the biggest cynic secretly wants to be pleasantly surprised by being proved wrong. (Trust us. There’s a lot of us out there). And when you break down the barriers we arbitrarily put up like a weird social construct of the Berlin Wall, it makes it easier to work together if things get tough. It makes it smoother to work through mistakes, it makes the good times a blast and the rough ones bearable.
A culture of casual (Friday and otherwise)
Sure, you can force company book clubs or have awkward team building exercises. Let’s be real though – nobody wants to suffer through a Michael Scott in real life.
It can be cringe-y enough to watch on Netflix.
What isn’t hard to watch? Cooking shows – and there’s a reason why! People bond over food; it’s a common connection regardless of culture, age, or interests. It’s why every holiday you can think of is based around food. Think Christmas tamales, Thanksgiving turkey, Halloween candy, Fourth of July burgers. Food brings people together, gives them an excuse to get to know each other better, and helps them catch up when it’s been too long.
So while we’re not trying to peddle here, we do want to encourage you and the coworkers from across the building to grab lunch (or breakfast! or happy hour!) together sometime. It gives you the pretense to laugh, vent, create a sense of camaraderie without feeling too forced. And if the conversation ever lulls, food is always an easy way to chisel at the ice.