WHAT FUN ARE YOU HAVING?
Fun at work? I hadn’t given it much thought until a few weeks ago when I was working with a group of Norwegian leaders. Two of them specifically mentioned fun as an important part of their thinking about leadership.
I like to have fun at work, don’t get me wrong. I’ve just appreciated it when it happens, but not given it much intentionality.
Since meeting Per and Oyvind, I have given a lot of thought to the role of fun in the work environment. I remembered buying a book some years ago, 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work by Hemsath and Yerkes. I’m not sure I ever opened it. Maybe I should have.
I know fun doesn’t come from a fun committee. I worked in a company that had one of those and it was deadly. It also doesn’t take a lot of time or money.
More important to my musing was recollections of times I had a lot of fun at work. Just this week I was leading a strategic planning session with a large group of young professionals from Cape Cod Young Professionals. I prepared a good process but it was their energy and enthusiasm and ideas made the work fun. They already knew and liked each other and trusted each other so they could think big and poke fun and laugh easily together.
So based on that experience I think energy and enthusiasm and trust are good components of fun at work.
An older memory is of an idea I came up with while a leader at a large financial services company with a broad range of products and services. We needed to find a way to increase product awareness across all employees. We held an internal trade show with each department creating a booth to display what they offered customers. They had a budget and we devised a little contest with a small prize for most creative booth. We enticed our employees to visit all the booths with a scavenger hunt. The creativity on display in the ballroom that night was amazing! They created games, costumes, movies with popcorn, and more, all extremely informative and memorable. Everyone, from the Board of Directors to the cleaning staff, had so much fun.
So based on that experience I think creativity is a good component of fun.
Just this past Halloween I listened to a nursing home leader talk about a costume contest they created for employees, the goal to entertain the elderly residents. I think the leader might have had more fun than the residents, her face lighting up as she talked about all the costumes, including her own, and the residents’ responses.
So maybe based on her experience, giving is a good component of fun.
In working in a health care system that was structured into teams attached to groups of patients, there were clear differences in team effectiveness. The most successful teams had lunch or dinner together every few months off campus. The informality and comraderie built from those events allowed them to get to know one another better and not only were the events fun, but the workday became more fun as they could joke about both the funny and the macabre in a way that relieved stress. They took their work seriously but not themselves seriously.
So maybe knowing one another is a useful component of fun. I know I don’t think I’d have much fun in a room full of strangers. Food could be another important element – the breaking of bread together.
Other fun memories involved surprises, and spontaneity. Some involved shared miserable experiences, those that were supposed to be fun but weren’t until they became so awful they turned into fun, like a golf outing played in a monsoon, where even our waterproof slicker pockets filled with rain. Certainly celebration deserves a big mention, especially in these times.
Okay, so where is this going? I’m not trying to create a recipe for fun, but I am trying to examine where fun came from. I’m also committing to try to think about how I can keep fun as more of a basic value, the leavening for the hard work that we all do. I hope you will too. The world will be better for it.