Work Hard, Play Hard: A Modern Adaptation

Monday morning.

The lights switch on and the first waves of bleary-eyed workers trickle through the door and take up residence in their own little corners of the office. Here they remain for the entirety of the week. Shackled to the monotony of a well-rehearsed weekly planner; daydreaming the endless possibilities for fun and liberation at the weekend; staring into the empty abyss of the long working week ahead. Work is a necessity; the less to be done, the better.

While this type of working environment, for some, has long been considered the norm, we are starting to see a trend rising, among forward thinking organisations, who believe that introducing fun into the workplace can have a profound effect on employee morale, productivity, and ultimately, your bottom line.

The idea started with the tech boom of the 90s, where young business owners were starting their own organisations. The freedom of the start-up culture allowed for deeply engrained ideologies, which helped foster innovation, encourage collaboration, and most importantly, gain the respect and loyalty of its employees. This raised the notion that we don’t have to force our workers into submission any more. Work and play can co-exist. And increasingly, employers are saying it should.

What are the benefits?

Productivity increases when teams and individuals are feeling good about their work and the purpose of the organisations end goal.  Fun activities and informal discussions between staff dissolves the perceived boundaries that a hierarchical organisational structure comes pre-packaged with. This allows management to become more approachable, which encourages those who would normally stay quiet to raise ideas and lead us down innovative new avenues for problem solving or dealing with disputes – not to mention boosting morale by genuinely taking an interest in their suggestions.

Without the pressures of an unapproachable boss looming over your every move, it helps create a stress free working environment. Stress free working environments have been proven to cut numbers in employee turnover and dramatically decrease the level of stress related absenteeism in the work force (stress related absenteeism reportedly costs UK companies around £6.5 billion a year). So it’s worth thinking about! By making each employee feel like a valued member of a team you foster a culture of happiness and willingness to help. However cynical you may be about this concept, togetherness and happiness does resonate with customers and prospects, leading to improved customer service.

Along with improved productivity, citizenship between colleagues, and the fostering of innovation; fun, team building activities also help create a cohesive brand ethos. This will become paramount in creating your compelling brand story when marketing the business – something informed consumers are becoming increasingly drawn too. Wouldn’t you rather your team enjoyed being at work? And took an interest in the company’s performance? And respected you for valuing their opinions? And wouldn’t you rather your employees listen to you in staff meetings? Or even chimed in with their own suggestions? Rather than sitting there blank faced and unenthusiastic.

How to foster a productive, collaborative culture, through fun

• Introducing periods of down-time to have informal discussions on tackling difficult tasks or suggesting forward thinking ideas.

• Invite open communication between staff, of all levels. Open communication gives employees a chance to take responsibility for their own tasks, air their grievances, offer collaborative support to others, and generally feel more compelled to take an interest in the company’s performance.

• Hire fun, creative people who can help to champion your new playful efforts. New blood in the workplace can often be a good catalyst to get the fire burning in your existing staff too.

• Introduce incentives. Try setting fun challenges for staff to complete, where the winner gets a small cash prize, or extended lunch breaks, or a trophy that signifies their victories. The sense of competition can be great for improving productivity.

• Decorate your office accordingly. Add colour to the room, display inspiring pictures and famous quotes, encourage staff to bring in silly toys, create areas for recreation or collaboration, and make an achievements board to celebrate a job well done.

• Use fun to take the edge of mundane tasks. Think of creative ways to get your staff motivated about the daunting task ahead: If you have to change thousands of database entries, split the task between staff and set targets so the first one to complete wins prizes. You’ll be amazed at what a little competition can do!

• Lead by example. If you want your staff to have fun at work, you have to be seen doing the same. Show them that you are open to fun and encourage them to embrace it.

• And remember to laugh. Laughter releases endorphins into your blood stream which clear you mind and boost your energy levels. Try your best to get your team laughing along with you.

It’s a scary thought to allow your employees time to have fun when they’re meant to be working hard. And it’s important to ensure they don’t take your new found playfulness and generosity for granted. But there are benefits to be had and whether you like it or not, the next generation of workers will be far more expectant of working environments like this.

Have you tried introducing fun into your organisation? Has it worked? Or do you think this is a scary concept designed by slackers? Have your say in the comments below.

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