Fun at Work is Good For Business

Friday, December 14 2018

Brad Hams, author of Ownership Thinking determined there were three important conditions that must be in place for organizations to be successful:

  1. They care
  2. They have fun
  3. There are visible, high expectations of performance

Our Focus articles often speak to the importance of caring for your employees. We regularly write about having performance goals, clearly communicated to everyone, with a mechanism to keep score. But how do we make sure we’re all having fun? Is there a metric, like a laughter scale, for fun?

When we think of fun at work, the examples that come to mind are often of team-building events like bowling, axe throwing, trips to escape rooms, company picnics, and seasonal parties. Described as episodic fun, these activities have their place in the organization, but there are questions about whether they contribute to the sustainable culture of fun that they’re intended to promote.

Today, many companies focused on attracting a younger demographic, have added foosball or ping pong tables in an effort to add that feeling of fun, and perhaps relieve some stress. This may be a piece of the puzzle, but is it enough?

What’s fun for employee A might not be as enjoyable for employee B. A may be athletic, B an intellectual; A an introvert and B an extrovert. The one size fits all approach to fun isn’t going to cut it. Best not to assume you know what is fun for everyone; better to rather ask, and where possible, provide options.

And what about the pleasure that comes from a job well done? That’s fun too, as is the accompanying celebration. In our CORE Strengths survey, the average employee scores 7.7 for ‘I love my work’. So, after a great night bowling, they return to a job they would score as so-so.

Consider how you can make work more fun between events:

  • First, as Jim Collins said, make sure you have the right people on the bus, and that they are sitting in the right seats. There are excellent tools to measure job fit here.
  • Next, when creating a strategy, ensure you build in components that communicate progress (keeping score), celebrate successes, and when possible, shares in the reward through self-funding incentive plans.
  • Consider how to add variety into jobs. It’s important to give employees greater flexibility about what gets done when. Ask them what they like. Don’t assume. There’s a story of one couple who argued about grocery shopping – one had been doing it every week for years and was sick of it. The other, surprised by the irritation, loved buying groceries and had refrained from taking on the shopping over the years, not wanting to be selfish! Perhaps there are tasks within various employee roles that could be shifted around thus increasing how much individuals enjoy their jobs – more fun!

Our employees spend so much of their time at work. Anything we can do to equate work to fun while keeping our eye on the importance of high performance will be a winning combination.