What springs to mind when you hear the phrase, ‘the Google way of work’? Freedom, flexibility, office table tennis matches? Or, perhaps more simply, fun? It might seem odd to associate such a casual term with a workplace environment, but have you ever wondered how companies like Google have managed to so brilliantly transform a once informal term into an unbelievably popular workplace trend?
‘Fun’ is more than just an open-plan workplace, or decking out the office kitchen in toilet paper come Halloween – there’s a lot more to ‘fun’ than entertainment.
What is ‘workplace fun’?
Various studies on the subject have defined ‘workplace fun’ as not only entertainment activities such as interdepartmental competitions or evening drinks, but also social interactions among co-workers – a source of laughter, witticisms and informal communication that helps to further shape the culture of ‘fun’ within the organisation.
There are three basic areas we can split the concept of ‘fun’ into: organic, packaged, and job-related.
Fun which happens through natural or unplanned interactions between co-workers, that is in no way initiated by higher management, is defined as organic fun. This happens when an organisation enables their employees to set in motion their own ‘fun’ initiatives, as long as those initiatives positively impact their co-workers and their work environment.
Packaged fun, on the other hand, is management-induced fun and typically refers to pre-planned events like the annual office Christmas party – events which are crafted by the management in order to foster better team relationships, engagement and allow their employees some relief from the daily grind.
Job-related fun, as the term suggests, is fun one experiences from the job itself and through the working environment. It stems from the way in which employees ‘perceive’ their work – through a mixture of both organic and packaged workplace fun. This kind of fun tends to be experienced by employees who fit well within the company culture, enjoy their role, have established meaningful working relationships, and whose work aligns with their own personal interests.
Why fun in the workplace matters
1. Happy co-workers means a happy workforce
American entertainer Marc Anthony once said, “if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Now, you may argue that, at the end of the day, work is still work right? That’s true, however the impact of those words should be clear – you should try to do work that you enjoy, and that you’re passionate about. At the very least, it makes waking up every weekday much easier, doesn’t it? Even if your role is a minor one, when you enjoy the work you do, and/or the people you work with, you’re much more likely to remain engaged and productive throughout the day – and you’re much more likely to spread that positive energy to your co-workers. A positive outlook is contagious, so it’s certainly worth considering pre-planning a work social or office party every now and then. If your employees are happy, they’ll become advocates for the organisation they work for – they’ll perform better, stay longer, and try their hardest to bring out the absolute best in their organisation.
2. Amplification of creativity
When you invest in ‘fun’, there’s bound to be an increase in freedom and flexibility within the workplace. This gives the individual autonomy over their work and decision making – for example, setting personal deadlines or deciding how best to carry out a particular project. People learn better when they’re relaxed and working within a stimulating environment – one which excites the imagination. A fun working culture has an ambience that is distinct; the vibe is different – mesmeric, almost hypnotising. High-spirited individuals hidden behind their laptops, working quietly while listening to their favourite Spotify playlist, or engrossed in one of many surrounding conversations.
Injecting a bit of creativity into your workplace culture isn’t exactly rocket science – in fact, it can be easily done through simple, fun initiatives – including small challenges, projects, or friendly interoffice competitions. At the very least, the autonomous nature of a fun workplace acts as a motivator for those employees that prefer to work on a variety of interesting tasks, rather than focus on the same thing every day.
3. Fun enhances teamwork and communication
If you want your organisation to run smoothly, clear communication is essential. Co-workers are going to interact with one another numerous times within a single day, and therefore it’s important to focus on developing more effective team synergy. When employees are working within a fun environment, they’re more open to having open and honest conversations with their co-workers. By establishing friendly co-worker relationships, we can enable better collaboration and communication.
Workplace fun also aids in onboarding and ‘nurturing’ as it tends to act as an ice-breaker. Co-workers get to better know each others interests, characteristics and habits, and are usually more willing to support one another.
4. It draws in an audience
The impact of co-workers sharing their positive workplace experiences is vital in improving brand perception; workplace fun makes for good storytelling. Allowing your employees to share their ‘fun in the workplace’ experiences also shows people outside of your organisation that you’re not afraid of transparency – as a matter of fact, you welcome it! This demonstrates confidence, honestly, and a human-centred approach which, in turn, generates a form of familiarity between individuals and other organisations who are then more likely to engage with you.
The future of fun in the workplace
After reading this, you may be wondering, are those organisations that practice fun in the workplace fundamentally creative in nature, or are they more creative because they practice fun in the workplace? If you were to imagine employees at a serious and formal financial organisation all dressed up in crazy costumes for a day, then perhaps ‘fun’ doesn’t really fit. But fun in the workplace is not just about socials and casual workwear, it’s about making your co-workers feel more ‘human’. Because they are, of course, only human. Leaders of organisations should know by now that the people who work for them are their best assets, so maybe it’s time to treat them that way.