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How to bring joy into your work day

By Tra To · March 26, 2020
joy-at-work primary img

Remember the feeling you had as a kid holding a bunch of crayons in your hand or watching fireworks in the sky or blowing bubbles into the air? That's joy: a burst of intense positive emotion that makes you smile and even laugh. It's not quite what you think of when you think of work—but it can be.

Inspired by one of my design heroes, Ingrid Fetell Lee, and her book Joyful, I want to share a few things you can do to design more joy into your work.

Optimize your space for joy

First, I set out to design my office space to optimize for joy. This means surrounding my workspace with visually joyful things. What's joyful to look at? Circles and curves: they bring about feelings of softness and smoothness, of movement and playfulness. Of course, a circle desk is impractical, so I settled for a quirky one that has a half-moon shape on one end.

Image of Tra
My teammates contribute to my joyful office, too, by sending over postcards from all corners of the world.

Pops of color also bring me joy: they energize me and lift up my mood. All of my filing cabinets are primary colors, and my favorite corner to conduct video calls is my yellow sofa. I've been told that my home office looks like a kindergarten classroom, and I love that. When's the last time you saw a kindergarten classroom that wasn't joyful?

Finally, nature makes me feel renewed and gives me a sense of freedom. Our People Business Partner, Meghan, raised her desk to have a better view of her magical squirrel sanctuary. I live in a concrete jungle (NYC), so I bring nature inside my office.

Image of plants in Tra

Give yourself permission to be joyful

The second thing I do is give myself permission to be joyful at work. Think about a teammate that always makes you smile. On my team, some of those people are:

Stacie, who greets the team every morning with the most joyful GIFs.

Unicorn gif from Stacie

And Emile, who has a little magic inside him that makes everyone feel special.

Emile writing nice things about a coworker

What do these people and GIFs and acrostics have in common? They don't take things too seriously.

Speaking of which.

One of my least favorite things about work is the crowded conference calls. One person is talking and all the others are on mute—it's necessary, but an unnatural way to communicate. How do I let people know I like what they just said? Sometimes I want to laugh louder than an LOL will convey. So, I invented my video conference joy kit, the real-life emoji that allow me to silently scream, "YAYYYYY!"

I call that joyful conferencing.

Image of Tra and her coworker with props


On the Zapier Support team, we have Fran, who tells us every day what we should be celebrating. Be it pizza day or lazy mom day, there's always something.

Fran sending a message for awkward moments day

The act of celebration, and the inevitable laughter that comes with it, brings us all a bit closer together. At our last Support retreat, there was one night where we gathered and wrote physical Certificates of Awesome for each other. I still look at them every now and then and bask in the joy of knowing that I work with incredible people.

An image of the certificates of awesome

Have someone in your life whose awesomeness you want to celebrate? Send them a certificate.

Happiness is pursued. Joy is found and be created. Happiness is aspirational. Joy is tangible. I believe in the power of the little changes. They add up to be more joyful than the sum of their parts. I hope this inspires you to look for the little things that make you smile and make the small changes that bring joy to your work day.

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