‘’Joy is a feeling of great pleasure and happiness.’’
When was the last time you felt ‘’joy’’ in your life? And what was the activity you were doing? I bet it wasn’t anything to do with your job. To constantly feel happy at work is not something we’re used to. But because of the changes in technology and generations, businesses and employers started to realize that making employees happy is more than important.
Believe it or not, some companies have special staff that helps their employees feel the ‘’joy’’ at work. I had a chat with Dana Svoboda, Chief Joy Officer® at Makers Academy (a web developer Bootcamp), who helps employees feel happy at work. I must say, after talking to her for just one hour, I felt a lot happier!
1. How did you become a Chief Joy Officer?
I’ve been studying and learning about personal development, spirituality, and meditation all my life. In all the jobs that I’ve had, people would come to know me as the person who ‘’spreads joy’’. My most recent job before becoming Chief Joy Officer at Makers Academy was in the Operations Department at a high-growth tech company. The job was to oversee the smooth running of the office facilities. I was soon throwing company socials and consciously shaping the company’s culture to support and uplift staff. Individuals would also come to me seeking personal advice on all subjects. A lot of my time was spent supporting and coaching employees towards their joy. Eventually, I was teaching yoga and meditation and before I knew it, most of what I was doing was not in my job description.
While I was looking for new opportunities, I met the CEO of Makers Academy. I told him I wanted to make a career move, and then he said: ‘’come to my company and make people happy!’’. That was music to my ears. It’s been three and a half years since joining Makers, supporting students and staff and sharing joy, and also growing a lot myself. Makers Academy is an amazing place with amazing, inspiring people; I’m very lucky.
2. What are the top 3 activities your job includes?
First, I offer holistic coaching where I coach people one-to-one. I also run group sessions, facilitate check-in sessions for open communication and connection in teams, as well as playshops, drum circles etc. Depending on the needs of the group it can just be fun and creative and/or have a soothing therapeutic purpose.
Second, I’m Makers’ in-house yoga teacher. My classes are designed to be fun and energizing for all minds and bodies.
Third, I teach mindfulness meditation coupled with an emotional intelligence curriculum. Meditation has been shown to increase happiness, concentration, clarity, reduce stress, it even lowers blood pressure. The list of benefits is long.
These activities contribute to feeling more whole and balanced at work and help us to cultivate what I believe is the most important thing – a positive relationship with yourself.‘’Yoga takes care of the body, meditation takes care of the mind and one-to-ones take care of the heart and soul. :)’’ Click To Tweet
3. Why do companies need a person like you on their team?
Companies need to realize that we all are emotional creatures and we need emotional support. It’s a personalized care. While HR serves a purpose in spite of the stigma around it, it’s not the same thing. Hiring someone who, in their nature loves, appreciates and understands people – and their job is to do just that – is a smart idea. Businesses are made up of people, people are more effective when happy, so happiness is smart.
4. How can companies measure happiness?
Surveys seem to be a good approach to measure happiness in organizations. Also, speaking with staff on a one to one basis, hearing about how they feel at work, I find to be very useful. On top of that, there are many clues; How do employees interact with each other? What’s the vibe in the office? You can tell if morale is low or if they’re happy.
5. If some companies can’t afford someone like you, what can they do to make their employees happier?
There are many ways to improve happiness in your company. I highly recommend a 10-minute daily meditation. Do it in the morning, before you’ve filled your brain with emails and the news headlines. It sets you up nicely for the day.
Group check-in sessions are helpful for team cohesion. They should be facilitated by someone who is good at being impartial and someone who people feel more relaxed around. It shouldn’t be the CEO, for example, if everyone is trying to hide more vulnerable sides from them. A safe space to share how each person is doing and their current feelings should be established. The aim is to listen to each other’s concerns, struggles, hopes, triumphs etc. as empathetically as possible.
An important point is not to push some objective, like ‘’after this we have to feel a certain way’’. It’s basically a check-in. “This is where I am in my life right now, I feel the way I feel, and it’s OK”. If anybody wants to offer support, it’s OK, but it’s not about anybody having to fix something. Teams learn to own their feelings, find strength in sharing and feel more grounded.
6. How did your job influence the company culture at Makers Academy?
I joined Makers one year after they opened. Keeping the company alive in the first year took an incredible amount of hard work. By the time I had joined, habitual overworking seemed to be a part of the culture. While I think “going full steam ahead” can be quite exciting, it seemed way out of balance and not sustainable. Employees were experiencing fatigue, anxiety, burnout, recurring illness. I started placing an emphasis on wellbeing and over time, that aspect of our culture shifted from ”martyrdom” to valuing self-care.
Sometimes people fear that self-care will lead to laziness and complacency but in fact, the opposite happens. We become more energized and inspired! We’re not perfect at it, but we try to practice and encourage it because it makes sense and we feel the benefit. This feels like a big win 🙂
7. Any last thoughts? 🙂
Give meditation a go. Start slowly and if you miss a day, don’t be hard on yourself. Keep going. Sometimes we are so far from ourselves that it can take some time to start feeling ‘’joy’’ in our lives. I believe all the activities I mentioned can help you find your way to success.