Many people may not be aware that every year during the last week in January there is an important Holiday – National Have Fun at Work Day. Doesn’t everyone just love a totally made up holiday like National No Socks Day? Eat Ice Cream for Breakfast Day? What about National Blueberry Muffin Day? I am sure you can probably find a national holiday for just about anything and that’s great, there are people out there that love Blueberry Muffins and they deserve a whole day dedicated to their love.
Having fun at work, however, is an interesting idea on any day. At first the idea may conjure up images of team building sessions involving trust falls and the type of ‘forced fun’ that really is no fun at all. I like fun as much as the next person, but I don’t know if I really want to be in an escape room with all my work colleagues. Dodgeball definitely seems like a risky endeavor from an HR perspective. But not all fun at work needs to be reminiscent of the management failings of Michael Scott in an episode of the TV series “The Office” (the booze cruise and fire walk episodes immediately spring to mind). Fun at work can be something that leads to increased job satisfaction, team building and improved morale.
The idea of being able to have fun at work and people being allowed to express their individuality and creativity is becoming increasingly important to workers, especially new graduates starting their careers. Indeed, rather than being a waste of time and taking away from the ‘real work’ of companies, fun can have real added value. There are reasons why major companies like Southwest Airlines, Facebook, Zappos, Google and YouTube encourage employees to have fun at work. Fun is a valuable part of their workplace cultures and is also very evident in the actual workplaces, with offices including slides, ping pong tables, aquariums, putting greens, arcades and even indoor skate parks.
Here are some benefits of instilling a sense of fun at work:
Fun Increases Loyalty and Job Satisfaction: Author Dave Hemsath believes fun may be the single most important trait of a highly effective and successful organization. He reports that in companies with “fun policies” employees report increased loyalty and greater job satisfaction.
Fun Improves Health & Reduces Sick Days: A recent study of 2000 employees found that companies who integrated fun into the workplace resulted in decreased employee absences and improvements in overall employee health.
Fun Builds Teamwork & Collaborative Relationships: Fun releases serotonin in the brain and when employees have fun in a relaxed situation they will be more likely to build trusting relationships. Fun activities can increase knowledge of each other’s likes, dislikes and personalities leading to increased understanding, better communication and overall improved working relationships. Fun events at work can create shared experiences that bond team members – there is an increased feeling of a common sense of purpose and togetherness.
Fun Increases Creativity & Learning: Fun activities often encourage creative thinking and research shows that when employees are more relaxed and happy they have improvements in creative problem solving. If learning opportunities are more fun then it results in people being more engaged and much more likely to retain information.
Fun Increases Happiness and therefore Productivity: Employees (especially younger workers) report higher levels of overall happiness when they work in a culture that promotes fun at work. Furthermore, a 2015 study at the University of Warwick found that happier employees are anywhere from 12-20% more productive than a control group.
Fun Reduces Stress: Job-related stress and burnout have been shown to be reduced by a fun work environment (Karl, Peluchette, & Harland, 2007). Fun can be especially helpful by adding some levity in high burnout jobs.
Tips to add fun into your workplace
You don’t need to be a billion dollar company to be able to instill some fun into work. Nonprofit organizations can still adopt a fun approach with a little bit of attention and very little monetary investment.
Celebrate Employee Milestones: Find ways to simply acknowledge events in people’s lives. From just sending a card on birthdays to throwing a simple baby shower – these acknowledgements show you care about team members as people, not just employees. If someone decides to move on then host a small celebratory send-off (unless they don’t want one). It doesn’t have to be huge or cost a lot of money, but it will still show that you care, will miss them and wish them well. After all, just because someone is leaving shouldn’t mean you don’t care, and leaving parties are more about those who choose to stay than the ones who are leaving.
Hold Simple Fun Events: This can be anything from dress down Friday to offering a Zumba Class instead of a usual meeting. These don’t have to be expensive and with some creative thinking you may find more resources – for example, your health insurance company may offer benefits such as chair massages. Events are typically more successful when they are held during times when people are working, rather than asking them to take time out of office hours to participate.
Allow Employees Ways to Show their Individuality: This could be anything from simply putting up a wall of team members pictures, to over the top personalizing of each person’s work space. There may be other ways to allow employees to relate on a more personal level by loosening on some policies when possible – could employees bring their kids or pets to work on occasion as long as it didn’t cause issues for others? Could team members bring friends and family to certain work events? These types of things add humanity to work and results in deeper connections between team members.
Find Fun Ways to Show Appreciation and Take Time to Celebrate Wins: We all want our teams to know how much we value their contributions so find fun ways to demonstrate this. Host a cookout for a team of the month or do a celebratory lunch after a challenging project is wrapped up.
Use Fun to Communicate the Agency Mission and Values: Fun can be tied into agency events like fundraisers, but if staff are helping out make sure they also are able to enjoy the event and have fun. Staff in administrative roles could ‘volunteer’ in their own company by spending a day every so often helping more with the services the agency provides. This could provide an opportunity to do something different and develop a deeper connection to the mission of the organization.
Don’t discourage workplace friendships: Workplace friendships help develop a culture of support and caring, which research has found can lead to higher levels of employee engagement and teamwork. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50% and people with a ‘best friend’ at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.
Involve the Team in Creating Events: Organizing fun events is not my forte at all. I am fortunate to work in a team where there are others who really do enjoy doing this type of thing, and are really good at it. We have a ‘Shenanigans Team’ that plans all the fun stuff we do. They celebrate birthdays and other milestones, as well as organize events like Summer Cookouts, Holiday Parties and PotLucks. Every month they do a calendar of fun activities and ‘holidays’. These have included creating a display of every team members’ favorite books and a picture wall of the pets people have. We may actually celebrate National Blueberry Muffin Day! This team does a WAY better job than I can do and they are much more able to identify the type of events that everyone wants to engage in. If it was left up to me we probably would be doing trust falls or a fire walk.
Don’t Force Fun!!
Fun only leads to improvements for people who want to be engaged in these types of activities. Please, don’t do mandatory fun, you can’t force it. There is no effective way to engineer social connections at work or make people have fun.
What ideas have you seen that have worked and not worked in creating a fun environment?
Do you think fun really adds to companies or does it distract from the real work of organizations?
What was Michael Scotts biggest management blunder on The Office?