I worry about love.
A strange concern for a workplace columnist, I know, but after watching movies like Her, where the lonely protagonist played by Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with his computer's operating system, and reading about new apps that conjure up fake boyfriends who send you text messages, I wonder about the lovelorn state in which many of us exist.
Turns out we're not in love with our work, either, where many of us don't enjoy what we do. A 2013 study by the London School of Economics found that most people rank paid work just a smidge more enjoyable than staying home sick.
Considering that many of us spend most of our waking hours at work, not being in love with your job can lead to a rather miserable existence.
San-Francisco-based Tim Leberecht, author of The Business Romantic: Give Everything, Quantify Nothing, and Create Something Greater Than Yourself and chief marketing officer at global design firm NBBJ, argues that rekindling your romance with your work plays an important role in harnessing creativity, resulting in better work outcomes and job satisfaction.
To be clear, he isn't advocating a real romance with colleagues, but cultivating a work environment that includes spontaneity, novelty and joy. As an example, he cites Guy Laliberté, the chief executive officer of Cirque du Soleil, who, according to legend, hired a clown to follow him around and mimic his mannerisms, granting delight to all.
These small "romantic" gestures may not advance productivity or improve efficiencies, but they certainly have the potential to make our lives better in little ways.
Why is cultivating a "romance" with your work so important? Mr. Leberecht believes the feeling of "newness" and "unexpectedness" offers an important break from the monotony and tedium of routine. These "romantic" experiences can give employees the feeling of doing something for the first time, allowing the familiar daily grind to become mysterious and intriguing again.
"The unexpected is to romance what the expected is to routine," Mr. Leberecht said in an e-mail exchange.
Companies that infuse their work environment with "romance," who make the commitment to having fun, open up possibilities and create an environment where people are less likely to "go with the flow," he argued. People who feel good want to be surrounded by other happy people, which is why this culture of romance or spontaneity can be so contagious.
Another way to bring "romance" back to the workplace, according to Mr. Leberecht, is through "microinteractions" with one's colleagues. That means saying "hello" to your co-workers, asking people questions, cracking a joke or writing e-mails with a personal touch. It could mean a pledge to make meetings more fun. Humans, lest we forget, are social animals, so it's important to invest the time in getting to know the people in the cubicles next to yours.
"The biggest sign that people have fallen out of love [with their job] is when they want to be anywhere but work," he said. As an employer, you need to guard against that.
But the responsibility to keep things fresh shouldn't be only on employers. Employees need to speak up and take action if they feel their roles are becoming mundane and routine.
Employees can start with their commute to work. As a regular rider of public transit during rush hour, it can be painful to watch the working masses, with their heads down as they begrudgingly head to the office. Why glumly stare at your feet? Why not strike up a conversation with a stranger? While at work, invite a colleague to lunch. Such interpersonal interactions can be a big boost to your enthusiasm at work.
Lisa Brown, project manager of power generation systems at heavy equipment dealer Toromont Cat, said that when her job starts feeling less challenging, and she finds herself falling into a routine, that's when she starts to look for ways to stretch herself professionally. This means speaking to her boss about her need to be more challenged, which may open the door to a future role.
"A job is very much like any relationship. You have to keep it fresh and exciting after you've gotten comfortable in it," Ms. Brown said.
"If you're going to spend 40-plus hours a week doing something, being away from your family, it had better be something you enjoy. If it's not, it's time to look for your next passion," she added.
Leah Eichler is founder and CEO of r/ally, a mobile collaboration platform for enterprises. Twitter: @LeahEichler