Having worked at Google, YouTube and now Twitter, Bruce Daisley is well placed to advise on the ins and outs of work culture in modern day tech. But his instructive insights on office harmony cut across industry, and are just as valuable to a firm’s workers as its C-suite on the top floor. Ahead of his Keynote talk at Cloud Expo Europe, Bruce discusses the secrets to workplace fulfilment. Read on to find out how to fix your work culture and fall in love with your job again
Bruce Daisley was first led to issues of workplace fulfilment following a bad patch at Twitter at the end of 2016 – one year in to his new role as EMEA vice president, having previously occupied the position of UK managing director for four years.
“I’m very fortunate to have worked at these big and well-respected companies,” he says.
“The team at Twitter was just a handful of people when I joined, YouTube was a team of seven that we started from scratch within Google. The benefit of these times is that you can really craft a culture from the ground up”.
“What you find is that people want to do a good job at work and building a good working culture is getting obstacles out of their way”
To outsiders, big roles in tech are often idealised. Partly because as consumers of social media platforms we encounter them through glorious mobile experiences, making the assumption that the same harmony is mirrored behind the scenes.
But this idealisation obviously obfuscates the reality that – just like any other enterprise, things can go sour. Especially in an operation of the scale of Twitter, a platform now responsible for the experiences of over 300 million users.
“I don’t want to overblow it but our time at Twitter from 2012 to 2016 was magical,” says Bruce.
“It was energised and positive. For many reasons it got a lot more depressing at the end of 2016 and I was interested… How much of this could I have solved if I was better at my job?”
And so began for Bruce a long journey of unstructured learning into the science and practice of workplace fulfilment. After failing to find books on Amazon that answered his burning questions, Bruce started his own podcast Eat Sleep Work Repeat dedicated the pursuit, inviting experts to share their insights.
“I’ve found the answers they’ve given me to be life-affirming and incredibly insightful,” he says.
After applying these lessons to his day-to-day work Bruce says the results are tangible.
“Someone came over to me at a work event last week and said ‘it’s back to being amazing here again’ but had we not had the downtimes I don’t think we’d have realised what we’d lost.”
“Every team just needs one visionary person armed with facts – they can be the agent of transforming their own work culture”
Bruce’s journey has culminated in him authoring the book he was searching for since the beginning. “The Joy of Work: 30 Ways to Fix Your Work Culture and Fall in Love With Your Job Again” (released this month) is a playful, heartfelt and scientific exploration of best workplace practices.
Stairway to workplace heaven
The changes Bruce recommends involve eradicating the practices we all know deep down as surefire ways to lead to burnout: those endless days working through lunch hours or yielding to the urge to check up on emails in the evening. Sound familiar? However, although these opinions are frequently circulated online in blog posts, rarely are they done so with reference to the scientific literature that backs them up.
“What you find when you look at the evidence about work is that there’s lots of things that we’re doing right now that are awful.”
“Working through lunch? Destroy your creativity, damage your sleep patterns and ruin your weekends. Doing emails in the evening? End up causing burnout and damaging our collaborative spirit. Open plan offices? Massively reduce productivity – and make thinking time become beleaguered and scarce.”
All of these point to practices that need to be eliminated in the aid eliminating a toxic work culture, but what exactly does it mean to be fulfilled? Most of us know when fulfilment is absent but it’s a slippery concept that often eludes straightforward definition.
“Team mates should be free to do anything until they get told to stop”
Here Bruce cites renowned workplace psychologist Teresa Amabile. For Teresa, defining a good, fulfilling day work is simple. It’s one where we make progress in something meaningful. The strategy for fixing work then rises clear above the horizon: find out ways to make progress and find work meaningful.
“Making progress means trying to balance the distractions and disturbances of email, meeting and office noise. What you find is that people want to do a good job at work and building a good working culture is getting obstacles out of their way,” says Bruce.
Bruce is keen to emphasise that the steps he outlines in The Joy of Work are made with workers in mind.
“The book isn’t for bosses. It’s for workers. I’m convinced that the way we’ll improve work cultures isn’t from bosses going to business school but from one passionate worker with an article in their hands. ‘Guys, why don’t we try this?’.”
“People can try any of these 30 chapters. They all stand alone. Choose one you think sounds fun, rip it out and pass it around the office.”
In his own role at Twitter, Bruce admits to taking a backseat on his own workers’ journeys to workplace fulfilment.
“I don’t tell anyone what to do at all. In our London office we have a UK Managing Director who is formidable. I always think how demotivating it would be for him if I was stepping in his way. So I try to be anonymous but to work to create the environment for people to succeed.”
“Someone came to me about a year ago and said ‘what am I allowed to do?’ and I realised that work turns us into infants. More than anything I try to enable autonomy. Team mates should be free to do anything until they get told to stop.”
Workers and bosses around the world seeking to improve harmony and day-to-day meaningfulness could do a lot worse than adding The Joy of Work to their New Year reading list, and reversing the harmful habits that have become so ingrained.
“When work culture is happy and motivated it makes our whole lives happier – but sadly over the last few years the pressures of work have got worse. We can fix this. Every team just needs one visionary person armed with facts – they can be the agent of transforming their own work culture.”