This Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, my office is closed. None of my friends have the day off. Neither does my girlfriend. Google “Valentine’s Day businesses closed” and you’ll see titles like “Why Small Businesses Love Valentine’s Day.” Why? Gue$$. It’s not because they’re having a Grinch-like moment of awakening. Businesses believe in Valentine’s Day. My CEO, Nancy, believes in love. To her, Valentine’s is a day to spend with loved ones; a world of business shouldn’t change that. I agree. And I can’t argue with a day off.
My girlfriend, Vanessa, feels differently. She thinks the office closure seems cruel. “What about the people who don’t have significant others?” A fair point. But shouldn’t Valentine’s Day be about more than significant others? What about friends, family, even hobbies we love? I was cooking Vanessa a special pre-Valentine’s brunch as I said this. We were both well aware of the gap between my theory and practice.
Valentine’s, as a holiday, doesn’t leave space for diversiform love. According to the Valentine’s media blitz, if love isn’t romantic, it doesn’t count.
And yet love does count, even at work. Ask employees what determines their happiness in the workplace, and they’ll tell you money. Yet examine the experimental literature, and you’ll find that that the most important factors influencing job satisfaction are not money and job security, but relationships – relationships with managers, with co-workers, with peers at other companies. In other words, liking the people you’re around matters most, even in the place many of us claim to love least.
Building good relationships isn’t just good for job satisfaction. It’s good business. Positive relationships at work correlate strongly with higher productivity. This holds true even for nerdy data analysts like me. So says eminent web analyst Avinash Kaushik: “Your real impact comes not from [data]. It comes from… being a warm and friendly person, from constructing relationships across the aisle….” In practice, this is obvious. When one gets along with co-workers, joint tasks are accomplished expeditiously. New ideas bubble up. Products improve.
Building healthy, loving relationships at work is not only good for job satisfaction and productivity. It is also simply the right thing to do. I think Nancy gave us the day off because she believes in celebrating a day about love, no matter how much it has been commoditized, or made to feel exclusionary.
So I agree with Nancy – Valentine’s is a day to spend with loved ones. I also agree with Vanessa – maybe it shouldn’t be a day off. But for me, it is. So what will I do with it? In addition to calling family and friends, as well as spending time with Vanessa, I plan to think about how to be a better office mate. When I come back to work on Wednesday, I hope to do my part in making our office a more loving place. To me, nothing better could come of a day off from work than that.