Fun is one of the most underrated business tools we own. When you create a fun working environment, it leads to happy, loyal and more productive employees as well as an innovative organization that attracts new opportunities.
It is well documented that laughter releases endorphins, and that leads to a sense of well-being and optimism. Now apply this to the workplace as one California researcher recently did. His study showed that people who enjoy a little fun and humour on the job tend to be more creative, are more effective at decision making and get along better with others. These employees also chalk up fewer absent, late and sick days.
Are there risks associated with having more fun in the workplace? Sure there are, and they should not be overlooked. The main issue is that because everyone has their own definition, what may be considered fun to one person could be decidedly unfun to another. There is also the risk that jokes will get out of hand or cross appropriate boundaries. It should be clearly spelled out that humour must be free of prejudice, racism or sexism and should never hurt the feelings or damage the character of a fellow co-worker.
Some people argue that a fun work environment is frivolous and a distraction from serious business. This is why management needs to demonstrate the importance of balancing work with fun without letting any deadlines, meetings or other responsibilities slip.
So, a la David Letterman's signature-style list, here are the Top 10 Reasons Why Fun Improves the Workplace:
No. 10: Having fun breaks up the monotony and the mundane. It alleviates the boredom and fatigue associated with routine, non-challenging tasks. At school, recess gives kids an outlet to have fun and an opportunity to relax so they can come back to class recharged and ready to contribute. Why did we ever give that up?
No. 9: Having fun fulfils the need for human interaction. With our noses to the grindstones, it is too easy to let an eight-hour day slip away without so much as a coffee break. By instituting a little group fun and encouraging employees to step away from their workspace, they get to be more social. Interacting with each other helps create a sense of purpose and belonging.
No. 8: Having fun boosts creativity. Workplace fun doesn't have to be silly. In fact, any task that sparks inspiration, innovation and imagination can be fun. Be creative in how you trigger your people to think outside the box: "I'll take clever teamwork ideas for 500, Alex."
No. 7: Having fun encourages team building. Because they are communicating more frequently in a relaxed, casual way, personal relationships build faster among teams when they are having fun in their everyday work. This builds a stronger, more effective team.
No. 6: Having fun is measurable in employee satisfaction. Compare the absentee and turnover rates before and after you instituted a little fun into the workplace. Happier employees feel better about their company, their jobs and their futures. Customers see it, too.
No. 5: Having fun can rally support for change. Change is scary to most people, so making change part of something more enjoyable can take the fear out and put the fun into it. For instance, when implementing a new process, encourage feedback, throw a pizza party, organize a prize draw -- anything to positively reinforce the change in a fun way.
No. 4: Having fun increases employee loyalty. People who enjoy doing something tend to do it more often and do it for longer periods of time. It's the same with work. If employees are having fun, they are more likely to stay, which provides greater value to the organization.
No. 3: Having fun reduces tension and conflict. People who interact more with one another build greater understanding and tolerance; therefore, if they know each other better, they are more likely to be able to effectively resolve any personal differences that may arise.
No. 2: Having fun positively reflects on leadership. Managers who can bring a little levity are seen as team players. By clearly demonstrating the need to strike a healthy balance between fun and work (as well as to not take some things so seriously) it encourages others to follow their lead.
And the No. 1 Reason Why Fun Improves the Workplace: Having fun is, well, fun. Everyone wants their job to be more enjoyable and let's face it, if it's fun, you'll put more effort into it. A job well done gives you greater personal satisfaction, which brings about more happiness. In turn, this creates fulfilment and enjoyment in other areas of your life.
-- With reporting by Barbara Chabai
Colleen Coates, CHRP, CCP, is a practice leader with People First HR Services Ltd. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org