Anyone who knows me, knows I like to have a LOT of fun and that I really don’t take day to day life all that seriously. I can definitely put in some focused attention and get the job done and while I do that often, I don’t let it happen without any element of fun.  Fun is something I think so many people are lacking in life and its especially true about the workplace.  Many workplaces are places of sterile positioning and power struggles that you can’t just work together as a team, have fun doing it and still make great accomplishments.  In fact, I challenge you with the statement that any workplace that has fun doing their work, will get a lot more done because of the engagement between people and simply because people enjoy their work more when it is something they like to do.

Fun in the workplace comes in many flavors and obviously what I consider fun won’t necessarily be the exact fit for you or your workplace but my examples and suggestions here can easily serve as ideas for building your own fun work environment.  Not surprisingly, most elements of fun in the workplace require some imagination and fortunately, imagination and fun both lead to more innovation and ideas sharing among co-workers.  This is one of the many great impacts fun has on an organization as well, especially in one where design, innovation and new ideas are an important part of the company’s success.  It certainly is in mine and so fun brings even more than its most obvious personal benefits by also encouraging the visual and imaginative mind to do more than what is required for day to day tasks.

Elements of Fun

Personal enjoyment

Everyone wishes their jobs to be something they enjoy and fun adds an element that creates that feeling of enjoyment.  If the workplace is fun, you will ultimately like your work more and put more effort into it and be happier with the job. A good job helps make a person happy and can add a lot of fulfillment and personal enjoyment to a person’s life.

Sparks creativity and imagination

Fun in the workplace can come in many forms and many of those, such as humor, games, jokes, competitions, interesting challenges or systems with prizes require new ways of thinking, wit or cleverness, teamwork or challenge and other activities that trigger new ideas, thinking and creative work. Many people simply consider anything creative to be fun (I’m one of those people) so tasks that involve these elements are often close associated or even sparking new creativity, innovation and imagination among those involved.

Can be a strong change proponent

So fun will trigger people to think about have more fun, often improving systems and processes or tasks along the way to make them both effective and fun in the process. This creativity is a wonderful partner to fun when it triggers ideas and rally’s support for change.  Change is scary to many people and so making change part of something that is enjoyable takes the fear out of it and it helps to support the change instead of add fear to it.  The ideas that come from fun programs then often encourage or reinforce even more change and it can continue to feed on itself if the systems are dynamic enough to let fun steer some of the work tasks and processes.

Engages teams and cross functional teams more easily

Most things that are fun in the workplace will only be successful if they are done with multiple people and when people have a chance to work together or compete with one another doing it.  Many of the systems and programs I’ve seen that are fun are when multiple departments or teams come together.  This can be anything from team building exercizes or job sharing to competitions or social events.  Activities that bring people together from multiple areas that do not generally work together are more social, and even if the activities are entirely work focused, the new social aspect is fun, and engages people more than without these activities in place.  And its this engagement between teams then that really starts to benefit the organization as the company works more and more integrated among its people instead of in silos or separate areas.

Builds personal relationships faster for more effective teamwork

The engagement between teams just above obviously happens within teams as well and the advantage of this is that personal relationships are build faster among teams when they are having more fun in their work.  People interact more and communicate much more frequently during fun activities and ultimately, when they know each other better.  People with closer relationships understand one another well and can be much more effective as a team than people who do not know each other well.  This is the case in all areas of life and it works well in the workplace as well.  Fun in the workplace is simply an element that can encourage this to happy and provide the environment needed to allow effective teamwork.

Increases employee loyalty and lengthens employee service time

People who are happy doing something tend to do more of it or to do it longer and so this is certainly true when it comes to work.  If you like your job and work because you have a lot of fun doing it, you are more likely to stay. People who are more likely to stay, will provide more value to an organization through gained expertise, strong relationships and teamwork with colleagues and by reducing overall training time and learn curve ratios compared to their delivered results.  All can be had by using fun in the workplace to keep wanting to stay!

Examples of Fun in the Workplace

These are just some of the things I have experienced in my work environments or know of that help to promote a fun work environment:

  • Encouraging and allowing people to personalize their workspace with personal items, signs, posters, favorite team jerseys, flags, objects, gadjets or any other simply items.
  • Keeping formalities out of day to day business and making daily communication informal, interesting and lively.
  • Ensuring that staff meetings and group meetings are upbeat, lively and exciting.  Leaders must bring energy and enthusiasm to their teams and make it obvious and visible.
  • Diverse personality types is advantageous for many reasons, but especially for adding fun, since you get more variety in the type of people working together when you have a mix of personality or behavior types.
  • Managers and leaders must allow and promote fun themselves so that all employees know it is not only allowed, but encouraged.
  • Jokes and humorous stories should be regularly available by postings, newsletters, and in scheduled meetings.
  • Create and support an active social club to organize events, games and sports for all to participate in outside of work.
  • Have the social club coordinate monthly social lunches and BBQs.
  • Encourage simple, harmless practical jokes around the office
  • Use team names and nick names for people based on their work or areas of expertise
  • Play on people’s reputation with words, encouragement and tactful teasing
  • Ensure high amounts of teamwork without individuals becoming too self situated in their roles
  • Rotate job functions within teams to experience varying styles and personalities in repetitive tasks

Risks with Fun in the Workplace

There are of course some risks with adding more fun in the workplace and while they should not be ignored, they can easily be mitigated and controlled.  The most easily occurring risk could be that jokes and practical jokes get out of hand or unprofessional.  It is very important to know that any humor must be clean and clean from any prejudice, racism or sexism.  If this is monitored and correctly quickly when it is visible at any level, the humor can be kept professional and fun without the risk of hurting feelings or attacking anyone’s character.

Another obvious risk is that fun can be a distraction to actually getting work done and it can sometimes seem like a waste of time where pressing deadlines and tight schedules just don’t allow any time for fun.  I’d definitely argue against this thought process since I’ve seen how much more productive people are (including myself) at times of stress when there is some fun still to be had in the workplace.  The ratio of time to let the workplace be more fun instead of stagnant, is well worth the small number of hours lost considering the increased productivity, loyalty and imagination that the fun aspects of work bring out in people.  The benefits easily outweigh the risks and with attention and clear expectations about fun and time spent having fun in the workplace, it can properly be managed and encouraged to make all employees enjoy their work a little bit more!

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