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Injecting Joy Into The Office: The Art of Self-Care for Your Team

By Shay Hughes

I love design and joyful spaces, and when I’m not busy with my real job of being president of Hughes Marino, I am grateful to have an outlet for my love of fun colors, whimsy, comfortable and inviting surroundings, and a sense of family that I try to infuse into our offices around the country, with great help from our wonderfully talented Planning and Design team.

A home that makes you feel good isn’t an indulgence.
It’s a form of self-care. — Ingrid Fetell Lee

I recently read a quote that sparked an aha moment for me. “A home that makes you feel good isn’t an indulgence. It’s a form of self-care,” by Ingrid Fetell Lee. That concept really resonated with me, as a leader of a national commercial real estate company who has dealt with the many iterations of a work environment we’ve seen over the last three plus years. From being full-time in the office to full-time at home, to gradually bringing our team back to the office, to now having our team working four days a week in office, we’ve been through it all! Creating a home for our team—a home away from home at our offices—should make us feel good. It isn’t an indulgence. It’s a necessary form of self-care for our team that I think often gets overlooked by business leaders dealing with the many changes and challenges of running a business. Business leaders are some of the best multitaskers out there, but when we’re busy juggling all the demands a company can bring, I wonder how many lose sight of how valuable—and even transformative—it is to be highly intentional about the environment they ask their team to do their best work in.

Back to Ingrid Fetell Lee—I am one of her biggest fans. Former Design Director at renowned global innovation firm IDEO’s New York office, she is the author of “Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness,” and her TED Talk “Where Joy Hides and How to Find It” has 17 million views. She’s an incredibly bright thinker, and aside from helping people find joy, she spent much of her career helping companies make their work better, especially from an emotional and aesthetic lens, a lens I rarely hear talked about.

I think we’ve done a good job of intuitively creating an emotional component to our work, but we’ve never focused on “amplifying the emotional component of our work” as Ingrid suggests. Designing more joyful spaces can actually change how we feel and act.

For business leaders looking for ways to get their team to want to return to the office, or looking to heighten their team’s performance, we all have to ask, are we creating the right environment for our team to thrive? Are we giving our team the tools to be as successful as possible, starting with the right environment?

Fortunately, it doesn’t require a big budget to do this. Creating joy in our environment doesn’t have to cost a lot, or in many cases, it doesn’t have to cost anything at all.

What it does require is intentionality, and recognition of the value derived from surrounding yourself and your team in a space that fosters joy, is stimulating and perhaps also soothing, and fosters the right dynamics for your team to thrive as individuals and collectively. Probably most important is that this pursuit is backed by encouragement from leadership that doing so is a worthwhile time investment for everyone on the team.

Every team member has the opportunity to create a space that feels good, that they look forward to being in, that creates a good feeling when they arrive and where they enjoy being productive in their work, whatever that entails.

Every company has its own unique dynamics, but there is no one that denies they’d prefer to be in an environment that sparks joy. But what does that look like for different people on your team? While some team members have a strong sense of space that comes naturally to them, others need a little help. Some people like a quiet, peaceful environment where they can focus without distraction. Others enjoy color and objects that bring them joy throughout the workday, or want to be surrounded by things that inspire and motivate them to strive for more and dig deeper to accomplish challenging goals. Whatever the case may be, whether creativity comes naturally, or someone feels they don’t have a creative bone in their body, aligning your environment to nurture your team is an important component of self-care for our company.

While it may be challenging, don’t let analysis-paralysis get in the way of your team finding joy in your environment. We help companies every day with finding the perfect new location or staying where they are, and regardless of the direction, there is always an opportunity to create a more nurturing environment for your team to succeed. As one of our team coaches, Mike Robbins, says, it’s important to have high expectations, but it always goes hand in hand with high nurturance. Just like where we live, providing your team the right environment at work is one of the best ways to nurture your team and in turn improve performance. Self-care for your team isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity for high performing teams.

How can we bring more joy into our surroundings and heighten our team’s happiness, which in turn will naturally heighten performance?

There are many positive side effects of having a vibrant space. Ways to do this, big and small. There are the Googles and Apples that have created the utopian work environment. We can all emulate that on a smaller scale to some degree, but if you don’t have the funds to spend on lavish office space, it’s still possible to bring joy into your team’s environment. Here are a few ways we inject fun, color and love into each of our offices that can be applied on any budget—as a way of self-care for any team.

  1. Family Slideshows

When we first moved into our headquarters, we thought it would be fun to welcome the team with photos of their family cycling through on the TV in our main living room. 11 years later, we still have that slideshow going, all day every day, and have carried on the tradition in all of our offices as we’ve expanded. We have over 2,000 photos of our team with their families on rotation. It has a life of its own, as we all share in each other’s travels and watch families grow. If you have a TV in your office, you can turn it into a great tradition for no cost. All that’s required is a little bit of time and coordination.

  1. Family Photo Walls

In addition to our digital slideshow, we also showcase a collage of frames where everyone in the office is featured with a favorite photo with those they love. It’s a simple but powerful reminder of why we are all doing what we do.

injecting joy into the office family gallery wall boston


  1. Inspiring Phrases

Ask your marketing team to create fun quote cards (or download graphics for free online) that inspire or spark joy, and let your team choose what speaks to them to dress up their desk area. On our Intranet, we’ve created a folder of these fun décor ideas for our team to choose from to decorate their space. We even give new team members different digital wallpaper options for their computer screens, complete with inspiring messages or our core values, as well as a polka dot screensaver for our office phones (that mimics the playful polka dot mural at our headquarters!).

  1. Colorful Books

Another fun way to inspire creativity that can be used to interject creative juices and visual stimulation in all areas of an office can be bought at the sale table at any local bookstore. We even have books in our restrooms to bring cheer to an unexpected space!

  1. Highlight Team Memories

Frame photos of team building events and fun outings and hang them in the copy room, or around the office in unexpected places. Those lasting memories remind people of the fun they have with their teammates.

  1. Hands-On Maps

We have a map in our copy room where everyone can tack up photos to note where they’ve worn their Hughes Marino Enjoy the Journey t-shirts around the world. It makes a trip to the copy room a perfect reminder to enjoy the journey, and an easy interactive décor addition to the office that any company can implement!

  1. Quote Cards

Everyone loves inspirational quotes, so why not provide quotes that mean a lot to your own company to your teammates? At team meetings we give out “quote cards” we create with inspiring messages that we call our “HM-isms” that we discussed at that meeting that people can pin up at their desk for a fun reminder of inspiration.

  1. Outdoor Oasis

Create and embrace an outdoor area, if you are lucky enough to have it. We turned a corner of our parking lot into a sitting area, where teammates can take calls, eat lunch and enjoy soaking up the sunshine.

  1. Colorful Murals

Paint a mural on the wall that brings joy or inspires, or paint a wall (or a garage in our case) with polka dots like we did!

  1. Etsy Prints

Bright, beautiful art is always inspiring, but if you are on a budget, buying a mix of colorful, joyful or inspiring prints from Etsy or Minted is an easy way to bring joy to any space. We have both in our offices!

  1. Bright Flowers

Whether real or faux, flowers always bring a little bit of joy and light to any space. While we’ve done both, we’re enjoying our faux pink peonies and white roses in our various offices.

injecting joy into the office bright fresh flowers

  1. Designated “Spring” Cleaning

Just like you might plan a team building event to bring your team together, how about setting aside some dedicated time for everyone on your team to clean their desk and breathe new life into their workspace with things that spark joy for them personally? With the amount of daily joy and happiness created, that could be some of the most valuable time spent!

  1. Poll the Audience!

Not sure where to begin? Ask your team for ideas and get them involved in looking for unexpected ways to create extraordinary joy from ordinary things—and if you have ideas, share them with us on Instagram, where we often post joy from our offices!

As you can see from the ideas listed, you can spend as little or as much as needed to spark creativity, enthusiasm and, most importantly, joy, for your team. I truly hope these 13 tips will inspire you to embrace your team and your office space to take it to the next level—after all, it’s an easy and rewarding way to provide self-care for your team!

Shay Hughes is president & COO of Hughes Marino, an award-winning commercial real estate company specializing in tenant representation and building purchases with offices across the nation. Shay writes about business leadership and company culture on her blog, Lead from Within. Contact Shay at 1-844-662-6635 or shay.hughes@hughesmarino.com to learn more.

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