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Ideas on Lightening Up Workplaces

Lynn Durham

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Here's what I asked:

I'm leading a roundtable on how to lighten up your workplace at a national nursing conference. I'm looking for recommendations to make a handout with diverse and creative suggestions on how they might "lighten their workplace."

-- Bob Basso

Strategies to bring productive fun to the workplace:

  1. CHANGE YOUR THINKING. BECOME A LIGHT MANAGER. Light Managers believe the end result of all work should be exhilaration and increased vitality. Programming fun is supporting meaning, teamwork and productivity.
  2. STOP TAKING YOURSELF SO DARN SERIOUSLY. Your work may be serious but seeing yourself doing it as serious completes the ring of stress. Take time out every day to make fun of yourself. "There I go again, acting like the emperor of the western world."
  3. KEEP YOUR BIGGEST "LIGHTEN UP" REMINDER NEARBY. President Kennedy used to play with his boyhood baseball glove at critical decision-making times. He said it "put everything in a simple, non-threatening context that calmed down every nerve ending in my body." Baseball glove, your baby picture, your first doll, your child's first drawing, a favorite toy, all work to humanize the chaos around us. Be sure to look at it often.
  4. APPOINT A FUN COMMITTEE. Pick two other folks and conjure a "fun event," however brief, at least once a week that others can either participate in or stand back and enjoy. The Bank of Seattle holds "Aloha Fridays" where employees wear colorful casual clothing. You'd be surprised what a dash of the islands can do for the attitude, not to mention the fun conversations that it arouses.
  5. GAME ALL CONFLICT. Don't take it personally. See it as a game and the game to play to win is: I refuse to catch your negativity however mean your attack. How? Do a crayon drawing of your biggest "monster" at work. Give him or her a name i.e. "Nothing's Ever Right Rita" or "I'm Going to Get You Yuri," etc. Put it in a secret place. When the monster starts huffing and puffing, remember the drawing. Cartoons can't hurt you.
  6. BECOME A "COLOR THE ENVIRONMENT" CHAMPION. Persist in colorizing your work space. Color gives us our most immediate emotional response. That's one of the reasons patients hate hospitals. It's a colorless, dreary place where all the messages in the environment seem to be saying, "This is a place of sickness, not healing." Nurses at Sacramento General Hospital started a similar program so popular with airports -- displaying school children's art on the wall. Pick a positive, fun theme and let the kids brighten your day.

-- Andre L. Beaudoin

Wherever possible hang pictures drawn by children. Hartford Children's Hospital has some great stuff in the waiting area of the brace clinic.

-- Stephanie West Allen

Just wanted to let you know we are debuting a newsletter on that very topic this month. It is described at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SCUDClub

-- Rosemary Wilson

I am a retired nurse and current storyteller. I suggest you access a copy of Care Packages for the Workplace (Dozens of Little Things You Can Do to Regenerate Spirit at Work) by Barbara A. Glanz. ISBN 0-07-024267-4 I used several suggestions from the book when I was a head nurse/coordinator of inservice for my former employer.

-- Steve Wilson

Please include laughter clubs, the merry medicine method for morale, energy, creativity, teamwork and productivity. Taking a laughter club break at work can be just the ticket. In healthcare, it is just what the doctor ordered (or should).

-- Kristin Anderson

Several of my hospital clients have created a "Humor Corner." In this space, employees (and even some patients and family members) clip and post cartoons and quotations. There is a basket of stress-relieving toys and even some comedy videos that have been donated. Having a bad or stressful day? A coworker can "send you to the corner." Periodically, a staff member should make room for new cartoon postings and replenish the toy supplies.

-- Joan Stewart

Karen Susman, an NSA member, wrote an excellent little booklet called "55 Ways to Improve Your Laugh Life: How to Have More Fun at Work." I've given these booklets to my audiences for years, as door prizes or as incentives to participate, and they love them. Contact Karen at kdsus@aol.com

-- Derrick Hayes

Find out their hobbies and interests and show how they can use them to help make the environment more pleasant. Most employers do not know what their employees like to do or can do best.

-- Pat Raymond

I'm an MD and member of NSA, and speak to both doctors and nurses on taking better care of themselves.

My suggestion -- ever hear of a "Code Pink"? If a doctor starts to berate a nurse, the other nurses within hearing step forward beside the nurse under attack, and stare SILENTLY at the doctor until he/she realizes that the appropriate way to discuss the patient care in question would be to have pulled the nurse aside to a private area and speak as professionals. Incredibly effective, and gives the nurses a way that is not direct or aggressive to modify the oft-times stressed-out MD behavior. After a couple of times, that behavior is not repeated again on THAT floor!

SpeakerNet News is produced by Rebecca Morgan and Ken Braly. It is not affiliated with the National Speakers Association. Send comments or suggestions