By Cheri L. Spicer, Indiana Education Employment Relations Board
The other day, while working on a rather boring part of my job (and hating it), I realized that my day is what I make of it and I decided I should try to make this boring task more fun. Yes, I recognize that this sounds very "Snow White" of me, but I promise I am not going to tell you to whistle while you work. Instead, give yourself a laugh! The task at hand involved my folder of notes on “impasse processes” and I decided the folder could use a better name. I thought about it for a few minutes, trying out a few options, and then renamed it “Impasse: A Cautionary Tale.” Not funny; I know, but it was sort of an inside joke. My boss later saw the same file on my desk and laughed. That laugh and simple bit of humor got our office to lighten up a bit on a rough day.
This got me to thinking about fun in the work place. So, I did what most people do: I googled it! Please note that according to Google, one of the ways to motivate people to work harder, faster and smarter is to threaten them. No, thank you!
There have been many studies done about having fun in the workplace. One study broke down different work relationships and types of fun into three (3) areas. Those are the managed variety, natural or organic fun and task related (Mod Fazil Jamaludin, 2014), which went on to describe fun at work as the following:
“the involvement of any social, interpersonal, or task activities at work of a playful or humorous nature which provide an individual with amusement, enjoyment or pleasure. “
It was also noted in the study that fun and humor can help employees feel good, relieve stress and improve health conditions. “Fun, creativity, and humor can have a positive effect which can reduce absenteeism, retain high-quality people, and reduce employee turnover.” (Mod Fazil Jamaludin, 2014)
My first professional job was with an insurance company I was maybe 22 at the time and had just returned from a trip to Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon, when I started the job. While in Seattle I got to meet the Pike Place Fish Market guys (the fish throwers.) These guys absolutely know how to have fun on the job! At the time I did not know that these fun loving fish throwers were the inspiration for the “Fish Philosophy,” a video training program used to improve work morale and success in business, which was created by someone else who had noticed the fun these people where having at work.
During my first week of work, I had to attend a companywide meeting to talk about workplace morale. Imagine my surprise when, as a part of this workplace morale meeting, we had to watch a video of the people who work at the Pike Place Market (the “Fish Philosophy” video). I sat there stunned as I watched the gentlemen I had just met the week before talk about workplace fun. I also laughed as I know one of the main reasons they are all so happy at work (that is not mentioned in the video.) At the end of the video, we were told that we were now going to have mandatory fun in the office on our breaks. Yeah! That’s going to do it. We were now required to go to a different department, tell them jokes and give them candy at break time.
I’m sure that you have already figured out that this was not fun at all! What was even worse was that if you began laughing at something during a non-sanctioned fun time you were reprimanded. Needless to say, the morale did not go up – which proves that fun has to happen naturally. Having events planned where co-workers get a chance to relax and socialize works, but scheduling mandatory fun at specific times is definitely a buzz kill.
So, dear employers: we are adults! At least most of the time. Let us have fun and let it happen naturally. If we are getting our work done and doing it well, leave us alone and let us laugh. You might want to try it too. Why not harvest friendships and playfulness for a happier more productive employee?
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