Yes! Fun at Work Matters

One of my core principles is that work can (and must) be fun. Most managers either dismiss work fun as unimportant or think having fun will detract from professionalism. Having fun at work not only improves productivity but can also be used as a means to hone professionalism. Managers who resist the idea of fun are expressing an insecurity in their own ability to maintain control.

Before selling a solution it’s important to gain agreement on the problem. Let’s look at why fun matters at work.

Think back to the school days. I’ll bet you remember the teacher that made learning fun. You might have had a job that was fun. Try to put yourself back in that class or fun job for a moment. There wasn’t a lack of discipline or runaway chaos, right? The fun teachers also had the sense to maintain order. The boss at the fun job was able to get the troops to buckle down and work hard at key times, right? I’ve had the most fun at my hardest jobs! Even today I know how to have fun with my work.

When you’re having fun at work, time flies. You want to produce when you’re having fun. You’re proud of your results when you’re having fun. I tell people to have fun giving presentations, especially if they fear or dread presenting. When a task is fun, it’s easy.

Can we agree on that?

Having fun doesn’t mean control is lost. That happens when managers don’t understand how to bring fun into the workplace. Making work fun does not mean suspending the rules. Fun can often come from more rules. People like order at work. They don’t like inane rigidity but order is important. When I say fun I don’t mean start a food fight or turn loose a fire extinguisher in accounting. But maybe you should get out the fire extinguisher.

Have you ever used a real fire extinguisher? Most people have not. In the event of a fire, would all of your people know how to operate the thing? Would they even think of grabbing it? Fire extinguishers need to be tested and recharged periodically.

When our time came to take the extinguishers in for testing, I’d let my employees ‘play’ with them. We’d go out in the parking lot and fire the fire extinguisher into an empty box. Everyone was timid at first. Then, once they got the feel for it, they actually had fun shooting the foam into a box.

Breaking up the normal routine is a good way to have fun. Have you ever had a fire drill? Try it. Do it once and then select a team to write a procedure for a fire or other evacuation event. You’ll have great fodder for discussion and it breaks up the monotony. Try to think of things that maybe were not considered. Did someone check the restrooms, closets or storage rooms?

Certainly you can’t question the value of preparedness. If your business is in a large office building, have your team take the stairs all the way down to the bottom floor. A practice run would have saved lives on 9-11.

There are a million other ways to have fun at work. We’ll look others in future posts. For now, for starters, try breaking up the routine with something unexpected.

If a fire drill isn’t appropriate, try this:

Plan a 30 minute clean up period. Set a time in advance because someone will always have something “more important” to do. (This will help you identify your morale busters)  Do some general tidying up.  Clean those dirty keyboards, monitors and telephones. Supply plenty of anti-bacterial cleaner and paper towels.

After this break in routine, notice the change in energy level.

Try it.  (NOTE: Be sure to read the other Entries in the “Fun at Work” Category)

Chris Reich,