Did you know that today is national Have Fun At Work day? I didn't until I scrolled though my twitter feed this morning, and I'm kind of sad that I almost missed it!
Why is it so important to have fun at work? Well, first of all, we spend at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week at this place and if it sucks, we're going to be looking to jump ship on the first attractive raft that floats by. Second, it's been proven that when people have fun, they are more productive, and produce more creative solutions to given problems. Pressure and stress tends to not bring out the best in most folks. And, finally, when you have fun with people, it's easier to create genuine relationships because people drop their guards a bit and you get to see the real person inside.
It always amazes me, when I look on a macro level, at which industries in this world seem to have the most "fun" at work. For instance, teachers, depending on the day, can have a good time at their jobs... or at least they could until they had to stop teaching knowledge a few years ago, and start teaching people how to pass NCLB tests. Until that point in time though, I remember that my parents usually enjoyed going to work, because they truly seemed to love what they did, and how they could make a difference.
But the one of the industries, in my opinion, that has the most fun at work are the people who work in technology and software design. Yes, behold the nerds, they light our way to a fun work environment!
Before you think I'm crazy, making a boisterous claim about folks who are known to be antisocial and people skill challenged, I ask you this: Have you ever walked through a cube farm and taken a really good look around you? In the average nerd's cube, you will usually find all kinds of odd things plugged in to their USB ports, like little snowmen that light up, or swirling around light balls. Look on top of the computer tower, or maybe just to the left, and odds are that you'll find, perhaps, a little gun that shoots mini marshmallows, or a pencil holder constructed out of legos. Or maybe you'll see a coffee mug that is in the shape of a beaker. In fact, the geek culture is so in to having a fun work place that they have entire sites dedicated these sort of "creativity tools." My favorite - Think Geek where you can purchase anything from plush sushi, to colored bubbles, to robots, to one of a hundred pieces of apparel proclaiming your "1337"ness (that's leetness for those of you who are not righteous h4xors.) And even with all this stuff, these people are some of the hardest workers on the planet, dedicated to their craft and able to produce, among other things, most of the websites and software that we use most days. I firmly believe it's because they know how to have fun.
Are these things that, as leasing constants, we could have on our desks? Probably not, but the spirit is all the same and it's that spirit of fun that we can bring in to our work spaces. Here are a few ways you can do it, from the great blog by Jody Urqahart, I Do Inspire (See all 13 of her steps HERE):
- Add some fun to your meetings by bringing in things like nerf balls or party blowers. Even a recent WSJ article advised this practice and suggested adding water guns to your weekly staff meetings, as it not only will keep your people awake, but mentally engaged on the meeting.
- Learn to respond to fun when it happens, instead of approaching everything with that left sided analytical brain. Some of the funniest and most amazing things that happen in this world happen with absolutely no planning.
- Put fun things and activities in the staff room. Thisallows people to take their mind off of the seriousness of work for a short period, so they come back to work with a more positive and balanced perspective.
- (I LOVE this one!!!) Encourage staff to leave work behind at the end of the day. Employees shouldn't’t be so consumed with work that it affects their family life and leisure activities. Find fun ways for employees to “unload” at the end of the day or week. Create a ritual like writing a “to do” list and posting it on the board. By doing this, you commit to not thinking about the things on the list until the next day.
And last but not least, if you don't know where to start try three things. First, talk to your employees and ask them if they're having fun, and if they have any ideas on how to create a more fun work place. Second, don't forget that your human resources department has a whole bunch of people who specialize in this sort of thing, because, Baby, fun at work goes to the very heart of talent retention. Third, look on line for resources such as the Fun at Work website, where you can get lots of great ideas and adapt them to the needs of your workplace.
If none of these steps get you very far, then give me a call. I'm a VERY fun person. Just ask all my nerd friends.