Work and fun.
Maybe you’ve never thought about those two words in the same sentence. There are certainly people who don’t equate those two ideas together, or while they wish it could be true to have fun at work, they’ve never really experienced it.
My premise is that work can be fun, at least some of the time and it should be that way.
This isn’t some new-age, fluffy, feel-good concept. There are real business reasons why this is true, including:
- When people have fun, they are more engaged. While there is more to employee engagement than having a good time at work, aren’t you more engaged in anything if it is enjoyable?
- When people are having fun, they are less stressed. Stress causes a myriad of problems for people and organizations, including impaired decision making, more on the job accidents and injuries, other health problems, increased time off and poorer communication.
- When people are having fun, turnover is reduced. Look at the opposite of this. If you are in a job that brings you no joy, aren’t you more likely looking for something else?
- When people are having fun, they are more productive. That may seem contrary. After all, if you are having fun, you aren’t working. However, some down time refreshes and rejuvenates your team. Besides, work and fun don’t have to be two separate activities; if you are having fun while you work, your energy and motivation is higher and you will get more done.
- Even if you are still questioning my premise, just think about your personal experience. When you have some fun in your day, are you more energized, focused, willing and able to get more done?
As a leader, you have a responsibility to lower turnover, reduce injuries, accidents and stress, and increase employee engagement and productivity, right? That means part of your job is to find ways to insert and increase the enjoyment and fun people have at work. Anyone can find ways to do that for themselves, regardless of their job title or role. For example, consider two people taking orders at a fast food restaurant. One is happy the other is miserable and rude. They are doing the same job in the same company, yet one chooses to find the enjoyment in the work, while the other doesn’t. As a leader, you also have an opportunity to boost the fun factor in your workplace.
Here are four concrete ways you can do that:
- Model it. Do you have fun at work? If so, is it obvious or do you keep it to yourself? If it’s obvious, great; don’t make it a secret. If you don’t find any joy in at least some of your work, you need to look harder, or look elsewhere, to benefit yourself and your team.
- Look for it. As you watch the work of your team and as you pay attention to the attitudes of your team members, notice the enjoyment and fun. Help people see what you see, and help them recognize that there is some joy in their work!
- Promote it. When you see it, let people know it is a good thing and that you want them to continue to inject some fun and laughter into the work. Give people the space to play a bit, and allow some playful and fun banter or conversation rather than expecting “all business.”
- Create it. Look for ways to put more fun into the work. That could mean a planned outing or event, or any of 100 things. Most important is that it is something viewed as fun by others (just because you love golf, doesn’t mean everyone else does …) and not mandated fun (“OK team, now we are going to have fun.”) Perhaps the best way to do that is to ask for volunteers to be on a fun committee that creates occasional and appropriate activities to inject life, enjoyment and fun into the work.
Fun and work.
It isn’t oil and water. They can mix and create something even better than standing alone. While an individual can create that for themselves, it takes leaders to create a culture where they can successfully co-exist.
I hope you will be one of those leaders.