Fun at work - how to go about it with your employees

BY THE OFFICE COACH - NOVEMBER 4, 2016

How do I create opportunities for my staff to have fun at work without ending up with chaos where nobody is doing any work?

The ability to let our hair down and to have some fun is critical for workplace satisfaction and sustained performance. We are not machines that can simply “operate” for the full 8 hours that we have to be at work.

However, the definition of “fun” and the extent to which it can be encouraged depends on your organisational culture. If yours is one that focusses on output, on deliverables more than the process of getting work done, then the scope is bigger than if yours is a culture of control and autocracy. 

There is also a natural tendency towards “fun” in creative companies that is lacking in more traditional professions.

Arguably, innovation is a business-critical skill in the world we live in, regardless of how traditional or otherwise our businesses may be. That makes every business or workplace on the planet a creative agency on some level! A fun environment encourages thinking and engagement, both of which stimulate innovation. Fun, therefore, should be mandatory. Here are some ideas for creating controlled opportunities for employees to have fun:

  1. Set clear goals: explain that the aim of increasing the “fun factor” is firmly rooted in improving business outcomes and put easy-to-track metrics in place to monitor people’s performance, engagement and attitudes. If these do not improve over time, then you will need to revisit what is being done to foster fun in your workplace.
  1. Lead by example: few people are going to be brave enough to embrace fun and games in the workplace if this ideal is not embraced by management. Employees need to see their leadership team encouraging participation by getting involved themselves. This may involve leaders stepping out of their comfort zones and modifying their management styles but this should not stop them.
  1. Set time aside for fun and games: many people instinctively lean towards social events on a Friday afternoon. However, this may not be the best time to energise your employees; just in time for them to go home for the weekend. A quick, mid-week energiser would probably have a better impact on business results. Create time during the week for fun by advising clients of “internal staff development sessions” that cannot be interrupted or by creating a system whereby staff can rotate through the activities while others cover for them.
  1. Allow your staff to contribute to the agenda: people are likely to be more engaged if they get to decide (and even organise) activities. These are lean times for everyone, so set a “no cost” requirement. Examples of fun things that can be done at “no cost” include challenges like wall sit sessions, having to use a ridiculous word during a meeting and office chair races. Form a “fun committee” or collect suggestions from everyone in a bright yellow box.
  1. Plan ahead and allocate fun “champions” to make things happen: having an established calendar of dates and events will encourage people to remain engaged. You may find that the calendar will eventually disappear as fun becomes an inherent part of your culture but this change will take time. Expect to have to manage the fun agenda actively for up to 12 months. Building organisational cultures take time.
  1. Create a visual repository of employees having fun: this may be a wall in the staff kitchen or a web page that is often visited, for example, where you can store and share photographs. This serves as a reminder of happy times when the work environment is stressed. It can also be a talking point with visitors to your office; something that may differentiate you in the market.

There are so many more ideas to share. Contact [email protected] if you would like a partner to help you with this.