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by Donald B. Ardell, Ph. D.
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Wellness in the Headlines
(Don's Report to the World)

Bob Basso - A Pioneer Of REAL Worksite Wellness Humor, Fun And Happiness

Saturday July 4, 2009

Work is usually not something most people, especially workers, associate with fun. Just the other day, I wrote an essay on REAL worksite wellness about the dark side of work. Few are unfamiliar with that facet of labor. My essay cited Alain de Botton's new book, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work.

A well-regarded social scientist, Mr. de Botton studies worksites throughout the world. In The Pleasures And Sorrows of Work, the latter far outweighs the former, in most instances. This is true today and always has been, as far as we can tell from a reading of Western and other civilizations. In summary, the whole idea of work and work environments present as necessary for labors and a grim if necessary burden of life. Quoting de Botton: "Today's jobs do not so much deliver real meaning as they just keep us out of trouble." "A contented worker?"He terms such a thing "an erratic and anomalous event." (Source: Francis X. Rocca, It's Only A Job, Or Is It?, Bookshelf: The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2009.) 

One who would disagree with this picture, or at least that it must always be so, is Bob Basso, author of This Job Should Be Fun. Bob's life work consists of helping organizatons structure and think of work in ways that make the processes more enjoyable. His goal: Lightening up the workplace environment. To Basso, most jobs can be fun, part of the time, if everyone really works at it.

This Job Should Be Fun (henceforth TJSBF) is a step-by-step guide for making life better for employees via humor. Basso advocates "systematic fun" as a deliberate strategy for improving productivity. He identifies New Breed Workers as people with high degrees of work satisfaction who also want to participate in decisions that affect them. Basso thinks young people in particular need a new kind of leadership. (At the moment, I suspect they also need a better economy—unemployment nationally is at 9.5 percent. (Source: New York Times, July 2, 2009.)

A lot of people are happy just to have jobs, though I don't question the idea that they would likely be more productive if they were enjoying the work. In any event, Bob Basso's career has been to convey the message and the paths to making work fun. Why? Because doing so is a viable profit strategy and the best way to manage people, especially in tough times. Bob urges managers to send three clear signals day-in and day-out, verbally and otherwise. The three messages are: "I care, you matter and this job should be fun."

TJSBF contains explicit strategies Basso maintains will lighten the workplace and boost productivity. He offers examples and quotations from managers who practice light management principles.

The concept of light management is based on several assumptions. One is that a new breed of workers exists in today's corporate world. They expect more, want to know more and need greater satisfaction from the work they do than preceding generations. They are children of the MTV/fast-food era, they have a lightning-short attention span and if they are not excited about a project, their focus wanes. Of course, all that was before the current downturn—I imagine that fear of a pink slip might make these kids more like the old breed worker, and that fear of layoffs have done wonders for their attention spans.

There's more to Basso's approach. Despite the economy, Basso still thinks all workers flourish when they know how they're doing and where they're going--two questions Basso believes managers should answer truthfully and often. Employees cannot be at their best if jobs are dull and meaningless, if they are not treated well and if they are not involved in matters that affect them.

Another assumption unique to Basso's work is that if our life at work is not fun, it's meaningless!

Bob Basso is pretty passionate about the value of and need for a positive work environment. Other perspectives that make up light management include the idea that:

While the idea of light management may seem uncertain at the moment, futuristic or overly optimistic to some, and out of touch with today's realities of an economy in decline with high unemployment, most managers would probably appreciate Basso's profit strategies for light managers. Resource materials in the back include lists of great ideas, a light management assessment test, suggestions for setting up M-I-B teams, a light manager's guide to hot legal issues (including smoldering smoking issues) and evaluation forms unlike those you probably use--and endure.

More on Basso next time. All the best. Be well and look on the bright--and the light side of life.

Note: This essay first appeared here on October 28, 2001, then titled "Should Your Job Be Fun? Can It Be?" 

Domain: purpose
Subdomain: humor

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