I am sure that every CEO will agree that a motivated employee is an efficient employee. Every psychologist will agree that mental health and physical health are fundamentally linked.
I am convinced that the first step for a business that is not scaling effectively is to look inwards to company culture and the way the team interacts.
But what do I know as a 21-year-old kid who’s barely dipped his toes into his career?
Well, the reason why I can talk about it despite not owning a successful business or identifying myself as a world-renowned career guru is my recent experience in the company driven by a motivated, accomplished and simply happy ‘team of champions’.
The reason why I decided to talk about it is because I was born in a country with the highest suicide rates in the world.
There’s been a lot written about how my generation know very little about the way mental health impacts work. Half the articles that come out about people under thirties are published mocking the idea that mental health is intrinsically tied to who you are as a person.
This is a flawed concept.
Lithuania has the highest suicide rates in the world. People in Lithuania are three times more likely to commit suicide than the global average, which stands at 11 out of every 100,000 people. Similarly, in 2017, a British study published by the Office for National Statistics showed that there is a high correlation between employment and fluctuating suicide risks. Office workers are at risk for depression, anxiety, and a number of other issues which can be exacerbated by the environment, country, and workload that they are experiencing.
While I believe that, ultimately, the problems with Lithuania’s high suicide rates go beyond a pleasant working environment, my experience at Switch – Digital and Brand has proven to me without a doubt that the key to a successful business is not where the business is located, but having it driven by motivated, accomplished, happy workers.
Starting an Internship at Switch Digital and Brand
When I started my internship at Switch, I could tell that something was very different there. At first sight, it is your usual, nicely decorated, open office agency, nothing mind-blowing or crazy.
There are about 27 people in the office and they’re all having a conversation with each other at the same time. The office is small, space is limited, but it’s filled with noise: people interacting, exchanging opinions, working, all happening simultaneously.
The first one to greet me was Pablo.
“He likes you!” Vanessa told me with a huge smile on her face. “Usually he tends to bite other males.”
By the way, Pablo is a dog. Yes, they have a dog in the agency! Don’t be mistaken, Pablo has his own tasks such as sniffing, barking, napping, and melting everyone’s hearts with his quirky cuteness, although the last one is not an official job – it just comes naturally to him.
Only a week in as a new intern at Switch, and I catch myself feeling like I am not really working, even though I am finishing my tasks and hungry for more. It feels like I am hanging out with friends and getting things done together. Over time, I started wondering: how does this work? What makes the Switch team come in to work with a smile on their faces? What magic trick have they stumbled upon, and why aren’t other companies doing the same thing?
It is now the last month of my internship, and I think I have started to understand. The truth is, there is no magic trick – only pure, hard work.
Team of champions
Unlike the majority of Lithuanian companies, there is no power structure in Switch whatsoever. You could spend months working at Switch and never figure out who the owner of the company is.
There are, in fact, four of them.
However, the structure of the agency is not based on power or individual competence, but collaboration and teamwork. There is no hierarchy. The system does not encourage employees to compete and hope to prove to “the big boss” that they are worthy of a better position or a raise. Competitiveness is important for many people, it’s necessary for motivation, and I believe it’s a driving force for many people – however at Switch, competition is played off against yourself, against the desire to be a better version of yourself. At the end of the day Switch, people are not reluctant to share tasks between each other. They know and comfortably admit that somebody in the team is better in one task, but nobody is better than them in another. This way Switch is able to grow a team of champions instead of a bunch of individualistic jack-of-all-trades. The result is minimum stress and maximum efficiency.
Do not invest money, invest your heart.
Multiple studies show that there is almost no correlation between pay and job performance or motivation. In fact, there is evidence that the more people focus on their salaries, the less they will focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun, and those are the very things that make people perform the best.
After many discussions with Switch people, I’ve realised that money is by no means a motivation to them. Love for their job and Switch is what really makes them jump out of the bed every morning.
But how do the owners of Switch make their employees fall in love with their job?
I believe that being human is the key. Empathy, respect and little gestures such as making coffee for your employee, buying them a drink on Friday night, and actually talking to each other about real issues is what ultimately fosters trust between employees, and makes their relationship more than just ‘friends at work and nothing else’.
Expecting the employees to understand company values and act accordingly on the guidelines is naive. Just because there is an ‘About Us’ page on the website, it does not mean that the employees understand, or value, the company brand. In Lithuania, I know many companies that disregard the power of the corporate culture.
In reality, it is harder work than just putting down your company brand in an ‘About Us’ page. People have to be constantly reminded and inspired to adopt the values of the company so that employees can have a sense of direction to abolish the chaos in the work-place.
Switch is different. The guidelines of the company are born organically and based on the people. Their strengths and quirks combined and crafted become the most effective and efficient set of values. This method can only work if the points mentioned above are integrated purely into the mindset of the team.
This is just the tip of the iceberg of what I have managed to take from Switch during my stay. I am grateful, inspired, and looking forward to implementing everything that I have learned in my future career. I truly hope that companies not only in Lithuania, but all around the world, will eventually implement these three takeaways as fundamental values of their company culture.