By: Skott Schoonover, Strategy Analyst
“Work is work… If it wasn’t work, they wouldn’t call it work. They’d call it super, wonderful, crazy fun time. Or skippity-doo.” – Red Foreman, ‘That 70’s Show’
While not directly saying it, what is implied above is the mindset that work shouldn’t be fun, and you aren’t there to enjoy yourself. As a kid my grandpa used to give similar advice. He was a Lineman and worked up on electric poles 12 hours a day, 6 days a week. He never took a vacation. He never had any work friends. And he was miserable. But that’s what he was taught that work was supposed to be.
That’s what a lot of us were taught that work is supposed to be.
But it shouldn’t be.
Workplace fun has tangible returns for not only the employees but also the organization. A recent Forbes article highlighted a Loma Linda University study that discovered that after participants watched a funny video for 20 minutes, their learning ability improved by 40 percent, and levels of cortisol (stress) lowered by 45 percent. More laughs, less stress, and easier work sounds like an easy win-win-win to me!
Another study that correlated happiness to productivity by Oxford University yielded that employers could expect 13% more productivity from happy workers. In plain terms that means a workplace that allows employees to enjoy themselves will only have to staff 8 people for every 9 at a company that requires employees to always be serious. And for the skeptics wondering, “happy workers do not work more hours than their discontented colleagues – they are simply more productive within their time at work.”
I certainly fall into these categories of employees. I can feel the difference in how easy my day is when I get to have a few laughs and connect with people. Especially in a mostly remote workplace, the shared laughter can be an important bonding experience that leads to better collaboration.
Kelly Services quotes the article ‘How This Game Can Help Boost Creativity in Teams’ by Ayse Birsel on Inc.com, “Children aren’t afraid of making mistakes when they play. That’s how they learn. Similarly, being playful without being limited by fear of failure can give your team a huge boost of creativity.” Fun places are seen as Safe Spaces by employees, and revolutionary ideas have never come from rooms where people are afraid to make suggestions.
As illustrated above, Happy Employees have an effect on the Bottom Line. Forbes noted that “Not only does fun increase productivity and positivity between colleagues, but it also reduces absenteeism. In different studies conducted by Gallup and the Queen’s School of Business, disengaged workers had 37 percent higher absenteeism” adding “60 percent of 2015 graduates reported that they rather would work for a company with a positive social atmosphere even if it meant a lower paycheck.”
Lastly, be creative with what your “Fun” is. It doesn’t need to be extravagant team-building dinners, or sporting events, or Escape Rooms. It can be little things like playing 10 minutes of trivia at the end of team meetings, or a weekly spotlight of “Did You Know?” about someone on the team. But most often Fun occurs naturally when people know that they are allowed to be themselves. Nurture a safe environment and ask your employees what they’d like. You’ll be surprised what you hear.