Add Some Fun for Productivity

 In Managing Your Team

There’s laughter in my business every day around noon, as employees come together around tables in an open area. Whether they bring lunch or do the drive-through dash, they almost always gather to eat together. Even the people manning the phones rotate their schedules to be able to join. As the business owner, I join in, too.

We have fun. Joke around. Talk sports, movies, zombie apocalypses and parenting woes. We avoid work topics and steer clear of politics. But most importantly: During these thirty or forty minutes of down time, we enjoy each other’s company. Then — feeling refreshed and validated — we get back to work.

“Carla, something is missing.”

My office culture wasn’t always like this. My business was successful with strong sales, but something was missing. One day a fellow colleague and mentor looked me dead in the eye and bluntly said, “Carla, your workplace is boring. There’s no spark.

She was right! I’m a fairly serious person; I get down to business and knock out my tasks. Left to my own, I don’t seek  fun at work, nor do I stop for quick social conversations.

Once I realized what my behavior was modeling to others in my workplace, I put change into motion!

More Fun, More Productivity

With my friend’s advice, I slowly introduced a bit of fun into the work day. I wove simple team building exercises into meetings. I initiated company outings. I joined my staff at lunch.

Over time, the overall office culture and atmosphere changed for the better. It became more alive.

From a business perspective, I saw an increase in both productivity and tenure. As employees felt more connected with each other, it seemed that they also tended to feel better about their work. It was a happier workplace where employees were less likely to leave for greener pastures.

So, what about you? Don’t worry if your employees don’t or can’t come together at lunch; there are plenty of ways to encourage a little camaraderie and fun at work.

Power Idea:

Having fun at work does not take away from the fact that most people come to work because they want to work and contribute.

Power Challenge 1: Is Your Workplace “Too Serious”?

Obviously, what fits for one company might not fit for another. But what I had learned was: What was right for me as a person wasn’t necessarily what was best for my business.

Take a moment to consider the culture in your business. As you walk through the hallways, what you do hear and see… or not? What is the quality of the energy in the environment? Is it eerily quiet… kind of like being in a basement — or a morgue?

For more insight, try the “Seriousness Scale” quiz below:

  1. When staff arrive at your workplace, do they say hello to their colleagues and perhaps briefly chat? (Or do they walk straight to their desk without stopping?)
  2. Do colleagues eat lunch together, in the office or out? (Or do they eat alone at their desk, or just exit solo?)
  3. Do you start meetings with an icebreaker, or occasionally include team-building activities? (Or do you jump right into business with no time for pleasantries?)
  4. Do you hold off-site meetings or employee events a couple of times a year? (Or do you frown on out-of-office activities as a waste of time and money?)
  5. Do staff linger at the end of the day, talking to their colleagues or waiting to walk out together? (Or do they rush out in a mass exit with barely a good-bye?)
  6. Do you often hear people laughing at work? (Or is it unusual to hear sounds of people enjoying themselves?)

You get the idea. If you answered “no” to the first part of each question, your company may have a serious (no pun intended) issue of being outright dull.

A 2015 study (done in the U.K.) showed that 79 percent of “school leavers” and graduates believe that fun at work is important. Further, 44 percent of this group believe that fun at work encourages a harder work ethic. The bottom line: Companies that are all work and no play are often less productive and less creative, and can also experience higher turnover rates. If this is your company, don’t stress! With a few small changes, you can be on your way to making a dramatic improvement.

Power Thought:

Don’t be a dud. 🙂

Power Challenge 2: Add a Bit of Fun — With Clear Intention

Don’t know where to begin? Don’t despair. It’s not much different than defining a New Year’s Goal or changing a bad habit to a good habit. Let’s walk through it.

1. Define the goal. Make sure you are clear on what you are doing and why. For example:

“I want to bring a bit of fun into the workplace to improve employee morale, promote connectivity and collaboration.”

2. Make it a “SMART” goal. You’ve probably heard this term before; SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. For example:

“I’m going to bring fun into the workplace starting this month; we will hold two monthly companywide events that I will promote with limited funds and that do not impact the workday or our work.”

3. Write an action plan. This doesn’t need to be fancy, but do make a plan for the first two to three months. For example:

“On the first Friday of each month, we will have a sponsored pizza lunch for all employees, coordinated by our office manager. An email will be sent to all staff the Monday prior, encouraging them to join their fellow employees. Project heads will be asked to include an icebreaker or activity to encourage teamwork at their monthly staff meetings. And, we will celebrate employee birthdays once a month at the pizza lunch (which I will attend), with a cake and a birthday card for each employee with a birthday during the month.”

4. Commit to the plan. Don’t forget your follow-through! Changing your workplace culture is an ongoing activity, not a one-shot attempt. Stick with it, and I believe you will be pleased with the results. You might want to journal your efforts.

5. And… don’t make yourself crazy! Having a little fun doesn’t have to be a big production. Don’t underestimate the value of small efforts – even something as seemingly insignificant as free pizza.

Power Thought:

Don’t forget to change it up. Doing the same thing every time will lose novelty, and employees will lose interest.

Power Challenge 3: Avoid Rookie Mistakes

I find most people make one of two mistakes when implementing something new. They either do too much, too fast, or they don’t participate in the activities themselves.

Mistake #1: Too much, too fast

Suppose you took the advice to heart and put a little fun into your workforce. But at some point you realize that you went overboard! Employees are spending more time in the halls than they are at their desk, they grumble when the pizza is late, and you’re spending more time planning outings and activities than you do on your business plan. Whoops, time to scale back!

What’s the right frequency? While there are no hard and fast rules, I recommend doing something a couple times a month, during the workday. Be judicious with activities outside normal business hours, as they are hard to plan with everyone’s busy schedules — especially for working parents and folks with long commutes. Start slowly, and don’t expect things to turn around overnight.

Here’s are a couple of ideas I’ve found successful:

  • Friday pizza
  • Birthday celebrations once a month with a cake
  • Employee recognition program that lets employees recognize a peer who accomplishes something cool
  • Free coffee
  • Holiday office door or cube decorating contests

I’m sure you can come up with a few ideas of your own. If you are lacking creative juices in this area, get input from your employees. They like to be asked, and I’ll bet they have some pretty good ideas. And, you can always type “How to Have Fun at Work” into your web browser, and you won’t lack for suggestions!

Mistake #2: You don’t participate.

You may not realize it, but your employees pay attention to you, your mood, who you talk to, what you are working on and where you spend your time. If you don’t show up for Friday pizza or participate in the competition to decorate your office door, employees are going to wonder if they should participate. Soon, all your good intentions are going to fall flat.

If you don’t personally buy in to the idea of fun, your employees won’t either. Next time pizza is delivered, get out from behind your desk, head to the lunch area and have a slice or two. You’ll be surprised at how quickly morale will pick up.

Power Thought:

Don’t make it mandatory; it will quit being fun and cause stress for some employees.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

You don’t have to be serious all the time. Relax! You might enjoy it, and you just might start to see an increase in productivity. All work and no play makes Jane very, very dull. Keep in mind:

  • Fun doesn’t mean work isn’t getting done.
  • Employees work better they feel connected to their fellow workers.
  • Company events are a good thing.
  • It starts with you!

Looking for a motivational speaker for your next event? Carla energizes and inspires attendees to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Contact her today.

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