Ultimately, don't we all want to work in the kind of place that gets us excited just to be there?

According to Ron Friedman, psychologist and author of the book The Best Place to Work, "One of the most distressing facts about human nature is that we are not particularly good at staying happy for very long. Positive emotions wear off. Whether we've earned a promotion, landed a new client, or moved to the corner office, with time we tend to return to our happiness baseline."

The problem is that our brains are programmed to adapt to our environment--what gets us excited one day can seem humdrum the next.

If you want to create an extraordinary place to work, then you've got to shake things up. Here, suggests Friedman, are 10 powerful insights for doing just that:

1. Frequency is more important than size

The more often you do something special for the members of your team, the happier and more motivated they will be. Instead of one big bonus at the end of the year, split it into smaller, more frequent pieces during the course of the year. Instead of one big company party every year, have a lot of smaller ones--again, throughout the year.

2. Variety prevents adaptation

When you vary the activities that you offer your employees, they won't get stuck in ruts on the job. Friedman cites the example of accounting firm Plante Moran, which offers employees breaks during warmer months to eat ice cream together. But when the temperature drops, the ice cream is changed to apple cider and doughnuts.

3. Unexpected pleasures deliver a bigger thrill

Surprise your people with something they wouldn't expect--a sea of balloons in your lobby, or the management team serving coffee and bagels to employees, or a band playing in an elevator. You know you've succeeded when you put a smile on your employees' faces.

4. Experiences are more rewarding than objects

When you reward your employees for doing something great, give them something they'll really remember. While everyone appreciates receiving cash rewards or other material forms of recognition, giving them a memorable life experience will get you far more mileage. I (and my then-wife to be) will never forget the trip to Club Med in Tahiti my boss gave me years ago for landing a big client contract.

5. We don't always know why we're happy

There are subtle things you can do as a leader to create an extraordinary place to work. Experiment with positive scents and music. It works in casinos and retail stores, and it can work in your office, too.

6. A grateful mind is a happy one

Set aside time in your staff meetings for members of your team to talk about their accomplishments, not just the things they did wrong or haven't gotten around to doing yet. Express your gratitude for their contributions publicly, during the course of the meeting--and as you encounter your employees in and out of the office.

7. Think small

Instead of trying to think of the one big thing that you can do to create an extraordinary workplace, realize that you can get much more mileage out of doing a lot of little things. Remember: frequency is more important than size.

Published on: Dec 24, 2014