Join Todd Dewett for an in-depth discussion in this video Celebrating performance, part of Managing Teams.
We spend the vast majority of our waking hours at work. For some people, that's a wonderful reality because they love what they do, so work is always fun. For others, it's a difficult challenge because they don't love what they do, and fun is hard to come by. Most people, however, are in the middle. And their experience of fun as a part of work is up to you, their boss. I'd like you to think about why fun is actually an important needed part of work life. Let's stop for just a second now. I know what some of you are thinking. Fun and play are not what we are paid to do.
Or you might be thinking, this is great for the big creative companies but it's never going to work for us around here. I would like to respectfully disagree. There's mountains of research linking fun to productive thinking. We're not making this stuff up in a very literal sense. The science connects fun and higher performance. Think of it this way. I know you want people to be focused on the work 100% of the time. But if you give employees a small amount of time to engage fun, non-work activities, their productivity will actually increase. 5% of their time spent having fun makes the other 95% of their work time far more productive.
There are four main reasons that you should take having fun a little more seriously. First and most obviously, fun is fun. Everyone likes to have fun. It's amazing how sometimes we forget that simple reality. Second, making work fun is the right thing to do. I'll stop short of saying, you have a moral obligation to make work fun, but it is your responsibility, as a leader, to not only maximize productivity, but to maximize the employee experience, too, and fun can play a huge role.
Next, increasing the level of fun at work benefits your employees. The experience of fun supports the experience of positive emotions in general. Guess what? Positive emotions actually support mental and physical health. Finally, more fun at work is good for your teams productivity. Why? Because employees who are experiencing fun at work will tend to be more creative, more motivated, and more loyal. Don't forget, the better your team performs, the better you'll look. So how do we make work a little more fun? Let's consider four main strategies that have found to be very effective.
First up, leader self-deprecation. You and the rest of the leadership team all have a status bubble. This is the odd feeling of social distance between you and anyone beneath you in the hierarchy. This bubble makes conversation more difficult in the experience of comfort less common. Your job is to break the status bubble and making fun of yourself or others in the leadership is a classic tactic. On its face, it's hilarious to see a person in authority humble themselves by happily being the butt of a joke. It shows people that you're human and that joking and laughing can be good medicine for everyone.
The second category to consider is celebrations. A good celebration doesn't have to cost a lot and doesn't require huge planning. Just be simply, honest, and genuine. There are lots of legitimate things worth celebrating. For example, milestones in projects, big wins with a client, an anniversary, or any other significant team or personal event. The point is to find genuine opportunities to share our achievements and enjoy a few smiles together as a team. Next is the group of activities I like to refer to as things you do just for fun.
This is a reminder that there's a never-ending series of silly things one might do at work for a quick break in order to break the tension or just to make folks laugh. I've seen many examples of this, including workspace decoration competitions. Funny clothing days, such as, Hawaiian Shirt Fridays or even ping pong or random use of Nerf toys. Small amounts of simple play reduces stress and helps the team think more clearly. Finally, and this is a classic. Use food. People need food. People love food.
And food is very often associated with fun. Don't believe me? Bring donuts to the office and see what happens. How about cookies at the next meeting? Take a great employee to lunch at a place of their choosing. When the team really earns it, cater lunch in the office and watch them smile. Break out a cake at one of the celebrations we mentioned earlier and the smiles will become infectious. Life is short, we spend a lot of it at work. Maybe it wasn't part of your job description, but I want you to make it your responsibility to inject as much fun as possible into your workplace, morale, and productivity will get a boost. But more importantly, fun is an experience that builds meaningful personal bonds, between you, and your employees.
- Building initial rapport
- Signaling fairness and integrity
- Communicating proactively
- Facilitating efficient meetings
- Using your authority effectively