Beneath his curmudgeonly Scottish exterior, Andy Mitchell assures us there is very happy core.
For the past five years, Mitchell and fellow co-founder of Running With Scissors creative agency, Friday O' Flaherty, have been perfecting happiness at their workplace.
(Left: Andy Mitchell / Right: Friday O'Flaherty)
Through rigorous, although admittedly unscientific, research the pair have gleaned what they say is the secret to a happy workplace, which they shared at Creative Mornings today.
You can't create happiness
The best an employer can do to keep a happy workplace is to not suck the life out of it, says Mitchell. Manufacturing happiness is nigh impossible, but by doing your best to not make your employees unhappy, you provide them with the opportunity to make themselves happy.
"When you try to artificially create happiness, especially in a workplace, you're bound to fail," says Mitchell.
Mitchell says it's not his job to make people happy, running a business is difficult enough without piling on this extra task. Instead he suggests employers hire already happy people who can contribute towards a lighthearted work environment.
"If we bring somebody who's unhappy into our business they're going to have an immediate impact on the people around them," he says.
The difficulty is finding happy people, to which Mitchell says the best thing to do is ignore the "demented interview grins" and focus on people who see possibilities instead of problems.
"I've stopped using my eyes in interviews, and started using my ears. If you look for the people who say 'could' instead of 'should' you won't do wrong," says Mitchell.
O'Flaherty, whose official business title at Running With Scissors is "boss 1 of 2", says the agency keeps its employees motivated by making its purpose clear.
Running With Scissors' goal is to become an internationally recognised agency, a lofty goal that's drilled into its employees from day one, says O'Flaherty.
Instead of defining strict job descriptions, O'Flaherty says new employees are given a mission to use their skills towards achieving the company's goal.
"On the first day of work people put a a figurative box around you. Telling people how far they can think doesn't stimulate creativity," he says.
Stimulate, stimulate, stimulate
Keeping employees stimulated, especially in the creative industry, is important for maintaining a happy workplace which produces great content, says Mitchell.
Working amenities, regular social gatherings, and working on projects they believe in all add to this, he says.
To keep Running With Scissors' employees inspired, Mitchell and O'Flaherty have created a monthly Pecha Kucha style meetup called Meet and Three Veg, where staff are exposed to interesting people from various different industries.
Is fostering happiness a distraction from work (and making money)?
When asked if all the energy spent on creating a happy workplace actually affected Running With Scissors' bottom line, the pair replied saying a happy workplace is a competitive advantage.
"It's a no brainer, the happier we can make our workplace the better our output," says O'Flaherty.
"Happiness is a part of our infrastructure. It's part of what we built from ground up and the processes we've put in place. If you took happiness out of our entity, and buried it in a box in the garden, our business wouldn't exist. Happiness to us is business critical," says Mitchell.