What the Campsite Rule Can Teach You About Work


If you're a camper, hiker or nature lover, you're probably familiar with the campsite rule: to leave the campsite in better condition than you found it.

And if you’ve ever listened to Dan Savage or read his column Savage Love, you know that he has applied this very same rule to sex and relationships for many years.

So, how might the campsite rule be applied to work?


Your work "campsite" is made up of all the people you work with. Your colleagues, managers, etc.

So, let me ask you to consider…

How can you leave the people you work with in better shape than you found them?

And how might it enrich your work experience and theirs?

What if you could change the game and take small steps to help create a genuinely supportive environment at work?

You’re probably thinking. “I’m already stressed and overworked as it is! Why the heck should I be worried about other people?”

But here’s the thing. Chances are, if you’re stressed and overworked, the people you work with are too.

What if there was a way to improve your day and theirs?

The only effort required is noticing. You have a strong need to be noticed and acknowledged. For the work you do and also when you’re struggling and need support.

Here’s the thing, everyone you work with has that same need to be noticed.

You don’t have to make grand gestures – no mountains need to be moved. Doing small, kind things for others not only helps them but makes you feel good too.

How can you notice and take small actions?

Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Know a co-worker who’s feeling under the weather? Grab some soup or a hot cup of tea for her while you’re out for lunch.

What about that huge project your team just finished? Find a way to celebrate the win! How about a “Hey, we did a great job!” fist bump, in the hallway?

No need for obligatory after work drinks (that nobody wants to hang around for anyway). Find your own small way to celebrate that feels good.

Has your work wife (or husband) been bummed out lately? Make time to get out of the office together for lunch and take the opportunity to chat about something other than work!

Don’t feel like you have the energy for this today? Try simply making eye contact with people at work.

Everyone is so busy checking email, typing up TPS reports, and buried in their phones, that it’s easy to forget to look up and look people in the eye when they’re talking to you. It barely takes any extra energy at all and makes a huge difference.

Here’s a helpful little tip: The more genuine and sincere the offering (no fakey Pollyanna bullsh*t necessary), the more positive impact it will have on the people you work with and you.

Are ideas or people are already popping into your head?

If they aren’t, don’t worry. Noticing, like any other skill, takes practice. Spend a little time each day noticing – start small by simply focusing on one person.

Throw out a “Hey, how was your weekend?” And actually listen to the answer! Ask questions. Be curious. And when in doubt, the eye contact trick is an easy fallback.

Your challenge should you choose to accept it: The next time you’re at work, find a way to notice and respond in a genuine and sincere way to one person…and leave them in better condition than you found them.

You might just find it’ll leave you in better shape too.