May 07, 2024 • 9 min read

The Secret to Finding Joy at Work

Discover the science behind joyful designs, and how infusing your workspace with elements that spark joy can boost your creativity and well-being.

Written by: Stephen Zeng

“Where does joy comes from?”

Ingrid Fetell Lee’s ten-year exploration launched from a revelation during her first-year review at design school. Amidst an array of creations, she was surprised and intrigued when a professor mentioned that her work evoked feelings of joy.

Finding Joy in Everyday Objects

Lee discovered the connection between physical objects and the mysterious emotion of joy, leading to an unexpected but profound realisation – joy isn’t merely an abstract concept; it’s a tangible force that impacts our lives.

These moments – ice cream cones with sprinkles, cherry blossoms, bubbles – transcend cultural boundaries to evoke joy universally. These shared experiences create a sense of hope for everyone, reminding us of our shared humanity.

The Joy Deficit in Everyday Environments

Lee noted a discrepancy between the joyful moments people seek and the environments they inhabit daily.

Workspaces, schools, and public areas often lack these elements of joy, fostering mundane, uninspiring atmospheres. Yet, research and examples have showcased the transformative power of joyful aesthetics.

Hospitals adorned with vibrant floral curtains, painted schools, and workplaces with colourful offices produced increased alertness and positivity among occupants.

The Evolutionary Importance of Joyful Environments

“Designs with curves and vibrant colours not only provide security but also radiate joy and comfort, in contrast to angular ones that evoke fear and anxiety.”

Lee’s discoveries highlighted that joy isn’t frivolous. In fact, it’s integral to our survival instincts, deeply rooted in our evolution. The use of colours and shapes can evoke emotions tied to our primal instincts, influencing how we perceive our surroundings.

In essence, Lee emphasised that, instead of fixating on happiness, embracing each moment of joy, though seemingly small, significantly contributes to our overall well-being.

By intentionally infusing joy into our workplaces and everyday spaces, we tap into a fundamental instinct that elevates our human experience, fostering vibrant and fulfilling lives.

Watch the full video of Lee’s TED talk below.

*The details in this article were correct and current when it was written. However, changes in business practices, policies, and other pertinent areas may have occurred since then. Readers should confirm the current validity of the content on their own.

Stephen Zeng
Stephen is the director and the principal writer at AusRehab, leading workplace rehabilitation provider, with a focus on addressing and resolving workplace injuries.

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