Topic: Employee Experience


Finding Joy in the Workplace With Guest Ingrid Fetell Lee

season 2, episode 18

Welcome to The Work Place, where we’re hot on the trail of what makes great workplace cultures tick, and what we can all do to make the ones we work in better.

This episode, we’re talking with author Ingrid Fetell Lee about joy—why it’s not the same as happiness, and what we can change about the places we work to make our jobs, and ourselves, more joyful.

Join us after the interview for Tangible Takeaways, where we’ll talk about the ideas and actions we can take with us and implement our own workplace cultures.

Ingrid Fetell Lee is an experienced designer and author of Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness. She’s also the founder of the website The Aesthetics of Joy, which helps people to find more joy in life (and work) through design. Ingrid’s immensely popular TED talk “Where Joy Hides and How to Find it” has been viewed more than 17 million times, so no one tell her how many people listen to this podcast, okay?

Ingrid was interviewed by Lindsey Nikola, a speechwriter, producer, and neighborhood handywoman.

Tangible Takeaways:

Now it's time for tangible takeaways, where we take big ideas up to 10,000 feet in a Cessna 208 Grand Caravan, strap them to our chest, and countdown from 3, 2, 1 before hurling ourselves out into a cloudless Nevada sky and free-falling for 30 seconds of pure, unadulterated, adrenaline-fueled bliss.

1. The first is that joy isn’t happiness. It’s much simpler and more immediate than that. When Ingrid talks about joy, what she means is an intense, momentary experience of positive emotion. Something that makes you smile. Makes you laugh. The little things, day-to-day, that give us energy and connect us to other people. A chance conversation with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. A moment of peace while watering your plants. Watching a hummingbird outside dance amongst the flowers. A note of gratitude left on your desk. That’s joy.

2. The second is that if you want more joy in your WORK, start with PLACE. The physical spaces we work in have gone through a lot of iterations since the day corner offices first turned into carpet-sided cubicles . . . which gave way to open floor plans . . . which turned into work-from-home for now . . . which will undoubtedly turn into work-from-home forever for more than a few people. Still, wherever we work, Ingrid’s four pillars of joyful spaces can be applied to relieve stress, improve productivity, reduce burnout, and generally help us feel more human.

The four pillars are: Plants, art, color, and light. Plants because nature is calming. Art because visual stimulation reduces fatigue. Color because vibrant workspaces make people more friendly. And light, or more specifically natural light, because it helps us stay alert AND helps us sleep better. According to Ingrid, people who have sunnier desks sleep 46 minutes more a night than workers at dim, poorly lit desks. And I know what you’re thinking, but putting out a bowl of free vitamin D supplements isn’t going to cut it.

3. The third is that even if you’re working from home, you can still be a role model for joy in your workplace. Wear something colorful for your video calls, surround yourself with plants and art, or better yet, do surprise donut deliveries to a different coworker each week. I know that I slip into a bit of a work-from-home-coma from time to time, so I’m going to try to be more of a source of joy for my fellow team members. And you should, too. It’s been a tough year, and we could all use a little more joy in our lives. Or at least more donuts.

As always, this episode was written and read by yours truly—with additional writing, production, and sound design by Daniel Foster Smith.

If you liked this episode, or even if you didn’t, please rate, review, and, of course, subscribe to The Work Place on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. If you have a burning question about workplace culture, or a story about why YOUR workplace culture is the best (or worst) send it to

The Work Place is sponsored by O.C. Tanner, the global leader in engaging workplace cultures. O.C. Tanner’s Culture Cloud provides a single, modular suite of apps for influencing and improving employee experiences through recognition, career anniversaries, wellbeing, leadership, and more.

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