Soulaima Gourani


Soulaima Gourani the CEO and co-founder of Happioh, a Silicon Valley-based software company disrupting the virtual and hybrid meeting industry.

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Regain your love of work

“This lecture is aimed at people who want to have spirit, motivation, and cheerfulness back in the workplace. Does love of work come from outside or inside?”

We must live by being innovative
In many countries, production and manufacturing aren’t sustainable business fields any more. We must live by what we do better than everybody else and where we know the markets better, futurologists say. In broad strokes, we must live by developing, sharing, and producing knowledge, as well as by researching—areas that require innovation and creativity. Therefore, it is a very sad realization that our working conditions are more or less the same as the conditions we had when our economy was centered on industry.

Now, the red warning lights start blinking, but there is a reason we do as we have always done. Just think about how we would be able to coordinate if we didn’t spend most of our time together in the same office. And what about all our meetings. And if the boss can’t keep an eye on where and how we work, then you can’t be sure that we are actually doing anything productive. There are lots of excuses, but they all share the fact that they just don’t hold water when examined closer. Coordination doesn’t have to be done face-to-face, the number of meetings could be reduced (try to think if your meetings are really necessary, or if they could be combined or carried out online), and if the boss doesn’t trust that his/her employees are doing their work when he/she can’t see them, well, then I would suggest closing down the shop.

I will argue that you can easily cancel three meetings per month—not reschedule them but cancel them—and nothing negative will happen. We spend a lot of time on activities that aren’t really important.

You don’t work at the office
Are you offered flexible working hours, lunch buffet, and massage at your workplace? Does that make you happier? Many people answer no to that question. What truly makes them love their work has nothing to do with formal structures—actually, formal structures are often more of a hindrance than an advantage.

Do you also feel that the office isn’t the place where you really get the job done? Don’t worry, you are quite normal. Throughout the years, many studies have been conducted on the topic of how we work best. Many of these studies have focused on motivation. I would like to refer to one of these studies which I find has some very good advice to offer. Jason Fried, an American lecturer and part owner of the concept company 37signals, has conducted a series of interesting studies on where and when people work best. His findings are both innovative and amusing. To begin with, Jason Fried questions the whole concept of “the office.” It is interesting to think about the fact that we have built a physical location where we all show up at the same time to be creative and innovative.

Work is like sleep!
With a little bit of imagination, you can compare work with sleep. In both work and sleep, you have to go through some initial phases before you reach the level of concentrated and thorough work. Once you are disturbed in the process, it isn’t possible to immediately get back to where you were—you need a bit of time before you can continue from where you left off. A typical day at the office often consists of a long series of interruptions. Meetings, coordination, talks with employees and managers—I am sure that you can come up with more examples.

A small exercise: pick any workday of the week and time how many minutes you are allowed to work focused on your tasks without interruptions.

No more work—welcome to work moments
If this way of working continues, we will have to accept that we no longer have workdays, but rather work moments. However, this presents a problem in the Western world because studies show that creative and innovative work—including work that involves some degree of thinking—requires a long, uninterrupted period. You can’t expect people to be creative for 15 minutes, be interrupted, and then have 15 creative minutes again. Creativity is a lifestyle, a mental openness that requires inspiring relationships inside and outside the company.

People are different! So why should we work the same way?
In my 15 years of working with organizations, I have learned that the way we learn, are inspired, and are efficient and creative is as different as our taste in food and potential boyfriends and girlfriends. Therefore, I find it alarming that we tend to organize the way we work as if we are all the same, like to work in similar ways, are productive at the same time of the day, have the same good and bad habits, etc. Want to read more about her thoughts on ” work life balance“?

The three work areas
You work in three different “pockets.” These can be divided into three main categories:

  1. A physical location (a café, your garden, the library, the basement, etc.)
  2. A moving object (the plane, the train, the car, etc.)
  3. A time (it isn’t important where, but it must be very early in the morning or very late at night)

What we characterize as good working conditions can vary a great deal from person to person, whether we are talking about a physical location or a time of day. The only general thing that can be said about our work habits is that almost nobody says that the office is the best place to work. Get more inspiration here

And then we haven’t even started talking about how the new generations, who are graduating these years, look at work and working conditions—but that is a whole other talk. Want to read more? Get it here. 

The question of how we can change the way we work is something that occupies our thoughts. Therefore, we look forward to continue working with ideas on how to adapt our labor market to our differences and future challenges.

Listen to her Harvard University Podcast


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