Why happy designers are better designers
How do we create a positive and enjoyable work environment that makes us better at our jobs?
It’s unsurprising that the happy version of anyone is probably the best version. What is surprising, especially for a piece about creatives, is that it's all about biochemistry; something most of us know very little about. But ‘very little’ can be enough if we use it properly!
When we’re happy and, more specifically, smiling or laughing, our body releases a lovely chemical cocktail of endorphins, cortisol, and dopamine into our brains. As a result, we feel more relaxed, more focussed, and – the grand finale – we become more creative.
Boom! For designers and creative types, that’s the holy grail right there. Happiness is literally fuel for creativity. Now that we know this, the question is how can we make sure our studios, and our designers are full of it? Happiness, that is.
Laughing, from the top down
First off, our creative leaders must set the tone. A studio that goes quiet when the ‘guvnor’ walks in isn’t a happy or productive place. A recent study revealed that leaders with a good sense of humour are seen as 27% more motivating. So, have a laugh, and get others laughing with you.
It helps when no-one takes themselves too seriously. Although we should all mean business when it come to our creative work, a prima donna at any level is never enjoyable to work with. And if we’re not enjoying ourselves, based on what we’ve found out already, the work isn’t going to be its best.
Tell that amusing anecdote about you being flummoxed by the client who farted in your first-ever meeting (true story) or share the embarrassing tale of leaving the presentation on the train (me? never). In addition to the benefits already mentioned, the laughter created at our own expense introduces a new chemical to the mix: oxytocin. This one encourages empathy and has the effect of increasing our sense of trust, helping us to feel more bonded and more connected – basically, we become a stronger team.
Now that we’re all doing the hybrid working thing, this has become more important than ever. Forging team bonds doesn’t happen quite as naturally as it would if we were all in the same room. That doesn’t mean it can’t happen, we just need to put in a little more effort. But only a little.
Don’t forget to celebrate
A modern creative studio can be a busy, hectic place – one where it’s easy to forget to celebrate successes. The pace of things means that sometimes we’ve moved onto the next project just as the last one's finishing. Taking the time to reflect on a job well done and share some wins makes everyone feel good, takes very little effort, and helps build a culture of positivity. As does starting off your fifth video meeting of the day with a smile; they’re even more infectious than yawns.
Even in challenging times – and we’ve all had a few of them in the past couple of years – a bit of fun can help get us through. Studies (by actual scientists) have shown that people can endure 15% more pain simply by smiling and laughing. So, keep a funny joke or happy image in your mind for the next time you’re asked to mash option 1 and 3 together.
Basics and breaks
Of course, it’s not all about smiles, jokes and having a laugh - although I think we can all agree they're powerful. Rolling around in stitches won't do much good if we haven’t got the basics right. Amongst other things, making sure you have good and working tech, you play to people’s strengths and aspirations and, of course, have a mix of everyone’s favourite tunes in the studio makes all the difference to our general level of happiness. Or at least avoid the frustration that can impede it – so don’t forget the basics.
Lastly, we can all be forgiven for thinking that if we’re not at our Macs creating ‘output’ then we’re not working. In reality, stepping away from our project work to take a break with teammates can be the change of rhythm our minds need to enable a creative breakthrough. How many times have you had that big idea when you’re on a lunchtime stroll, having a shower or discussing a hilarious film whilst doing a studio tea round? Fun-time isn’t down-time.
I realise I’ve ended a little bit more serious than I’d originally intended, but I reckon that’s because happiness, fun and laughter are serious business. And are crucial to the success of design teams. We invest lots of our time and energy in finding great people; to get the best out of them and that investment, we must understand and harness the power of happiness. If we can do that, then I’m sure we’ll see that the design team that laughs together, stays together.