Employee engagement

Sparking Joy at Work: KonMari for the Workplace

Emily Ciavolino
January 30, 2019
Table of Contents
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Thanks to the popular Netflix series "Tidying Up With Marie Kondo”, the KonMari method has spiked in popularity in the last month. KonMari memes are everywhere, there’s been a dramatic increase in donated clothes, and the principles have been applied to everything you can imagine, from your calendar, relationships, pet toys, and finances.

The KonMari method, originally published in 2011 by Marie Kondo, is a system for tidying your life. The process involves inspecting each item in your house by category, taking a moment to hold each item, and keeping only the items that “spark joy."

The KonMari method isn’t just about a clean home. Kondo says it’s about choosing joy, transforming your life, and looking forward. Can these transformative ideas be brought into the workplace too? Can you spark joy and look forward at work with the KonMari method?

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.
–Marie Kondō

If you don’t associate “joy” with “work”, keep reading! Joy at work is important and achievable!

We’ve all had coworkers who have fun, stay engaged, and care about their work. They’re a delight to be around and do better work than people who are just there for the paycheck. Research backs this up as well. One study found that happy employees are up to 20% more productive than unhappy employees. When it comes to salespeople, happiness has an even greater impact, raising sales by 37%

It even works for Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, who sounds a bit like Marie Kondo when it comes to fun at work, "Have fun, work hard and money will come. Don't waste time—grab your chances. Have a positive outlook on life. When it's not fun, move on.”

Every day and moment at work might not be full of joy, and that’s to be expected. Getting rid of all negative emotions is both impossible and undesirable. Negative emotions signal risk and trigger helpful stress responses. The key is to achieve the right ratio of positive to negative emotions. High performing teams have a ratio of about 5.625 to 1, which means every criticism or frustration, there are six positive experiences like recognition or accomplishment.

Ready to apply the KonMari method and spark joy at work? We’ll start with something you could do this afternoon: your desk, and then we'll move towards some bigger KonMari projects.


Start small—your desk

The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.
–Marie Kondō

The most intuitive workspace to apply the KonMari method is your desk, your “home” at work. Because the task is so similar, tidying a physical space, you hardly need to adjust the method at all. Here’s a quick guide:

  1. Take a moment to envision the ideal state of your desk. How would you like to feel at your desk? What would you like to be reminded of?
  2. Remove everything from your desk and sort it into categories. The categories might include books, chargers, pens, papers, and mugs, but this will depend on what is in your desk.
  3. Go through each item by category, starting with the easier categories, and only keep the ones that “spark joy”. Give away everything else. If there is something that doesn’t spark joy but is essential for work, see if there’s a way for you to keep that item in a way that could still align with your ideal space.
  4. Make sure each item that you’re keeping has a place it belongs on your desk.

Next step—your tools

What software and tools do you use every day? Which are frustrating and which do love to use? This includes software, electronics, physical equipment, etc. Anything you use to get the job done.

If you’re in a position to choose the software and tools your organization uses, don’t skimp on this. Find tools that will spark joy for you and your employees.

How will you know what sparks joy? You can look for two things: 1) tools that will truly make you or your employees more effective at their jobs, and 2) tools that provide a delightful experience and interface. After all, a tool is only effective if employees can easily figure out how to leverage and incorporate it into their day-to-day.

When you have things like security, reporting, scalability, and legal to consider, sparking joy might seem like a low priority, but remember that ultimately tooling is there to make employees effective. If it’s a headache to use every day, that’s taking away from the tool’s functionality and your employee engagement.

You might not get to choose all of your own tools, especially if you work in a large organization, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do with those tools that don’t spark joy.

  • Learn more about how to use them
    Ideally, you would only use tools that are user-friendly and delightful, but if you’re stuck with something complex and non-intuitive, you may be able to prevent a daily headache by setting aside an afternoon to really learn to use it. It’s hard to hate a tool if you’ve mastered it.
  • It never hurts to ask
    The tools in your company are presumably there to make you more effective at your job. If they’re not doing that, it’s worth giving that feedback to your company leadership.
  • Do you need to use that tool at all?
    If there are tools that are frustrating to you, it could be tied to the fact that you don’t want to be doing that process in the first place. Keep that in mind as you move to job crafting in the next section.

A bigger project—your job

Are there parts of your job that don’t spark joy for you? Unlike that sweater from your cousin twice removed that you never wear, you can’t just drop part of your job without consulting anyone, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with things the way they are.

It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day activities and forget the things you get to do at work, like making a real difference for customers, working with your favorite coworkers, and learning new skills.

Job Crafting is essentially KonMari for your job, and it has had similar life-changing impacts. Job crafting is a process to redesign your own job to enjoy your work more. There are three key parts: tasks, relationships, and purpose.



Write down everything that is part of your day-to-day work. What do you enjoy? What do you dread? Try to be honest with yourself. Just like our belongings, we might hold onto things that are sentimental. At work, that might look like holding onto a pet project or getting caught up on sunk costs.

Once you have a clear image of this, it might be easier than you think to make changes.

For the tasks you don’t like, there are a few approaches. First, does this need to be done at all? It’s worth asking before making any changes. If it does need to be done, are you the best person to do it? If you dread it, then there’s a good chance you’re not the best person to do it. Everyone has different strengths, and there might be someone who would love to take it on. If it needs to be done and you’re the best person to do it, then what can you do to make it better? Can you automate it? Can you promise yourself you’ll treat yourself if you can get it done in an hour? Can you change the process? Learn a new skill to make it easier?

Once you find the tasks you do like, make the most of that information. First, focus on being excellent at those things. You will enjoy your work more, and before you know it people will be asking you to do more of what you love. Also, get to the root reason you enjoy these things. Why do you really love party planning? Is it the collaboration? Creative process? Seeing the impact and getting positive feedback? Once you understand why you enjoy what you enjoy, you can find more similar rewarding work.



Write down the people you interact with at work. Who is a delight to work with? Are there people that bring you down?

People have a huge impact on how you feel and think, and it’s important to be conscious of who you spend your time with. Surround yourself with more people that make you feel great at work. You can do this by collaborating on work or through social connections. Developing friendships will make your work more engaging and satisfying. Even if you don’t want to spend time with colleagues outside of work, you can develop friendships by having a coffee during work hours or volunteering together.

If there are people bringing you down, look for ways to minimize time with them or improve the relationship. This might mean a radically candid conversation or changing a shared process. A relationship takes two, so it is likely that the relationship isn’t a delight for them either.

Frustrating customers might seem like the exception, but firing your worst customers is becoming a popular business practice. Whether you can fire your customers or not, explore ways to reduce friction or improve communication with customers. 



Last but not least, it’s time to address the purpose of your work. So far, we’ve focused on what you do every day. A huge part of sparking joy at work is focussing on why you do it. It can be challenging to think about, but it’s also highly impactful and completely in your control.

Purpose drives happiness, health, and engagement inside and outside of the office, and it’s accessible even if you aren’t working in a nonprofit or B-corp. Arthur Woods, Co-founder of Imperative, says, "Purpose is possible in any job, and the ball is in your court. As an employee, you're in the driver's seat. Your company, we hope, is in the passenger seat helping you navigate, but you're the one primarily able to control your destination.”

Start by asking yourself what is important to you. You can list general ideas, like helping people or learning new skills, and more specific interests, like fashion, travel, or cooking.

Once you know what is important to you, it’s time to look at that lists of tasks again. See how each aspect of your job contributes (or doesn’t) to your purpose and values. This might help you understand why some of your work sparks joy, and help you maximize that.

For example, let’s say you love knowing you’re helping customers. You could set up some ways to be reminded of your impact on customers during your day, prioritize the work you do that has the biggest impact on customers, and learn more about your customers’ challenges. 

Bonusly Love Bot

The Bonusly team keeps the impact of our work front of mind with the “Bonusly Love Bot”, which posts in Slack every Monday.

What's next?

If the KonMari method has helped you spark joy at work, we’d love to hear about it! Tag us on social media leave a comment. We’d love to see a desk before and after!

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