Fun at Work Isn't Frivolous; It's Essential
September 28, 2023
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employed people work an average of eight hours a day. That's a significant chunk of time, and there are plenty of people who spend even longer than that at work. Life is too short to spend that much time being bored and frustrated while wishing you were elsewhere.
Having fun in the workplace keeps employees engaged, satisfied, and productive. It reduces stress, enhances employee retention, and promotes teamwork and cooperation. Infusing the workplace with joy has proven positive impacts that resonate with organizations and individuals alike.
Positive Effects of Fun in the Workplace
Various researchers have studied fun in the workplace, but the definition throughout the years remained relatively universal. In their 2003 study, "Questions and Answers about Fun at Work," Robert C. Ford, Frank S. McLaughlin, and John W. Newstrom defined fun at work as "a variety of enjoyable and pleasurable activities that positively impact the attitude and productivity of individuals and groups."
In her 2008 study, "Who Put the Fun in Functional? Fun at Work and Its Effects on Job Performance," Erin Rae Fluegge defined fun at work as "any social, interpersonal, or task activities at work of playful or humorous nature which provide an individual with amusement, enjoyment, or pleasure." This definition remains accurate to date.
Having fun at work is the same as having fun anywhere else, the only difference being the setting. Furthermore, making the workplace fun has several positive impacts on the people in it.
Reduced stress and fewer employee absences
According to the American Institute of Stress, employee absenteeism costs companies in the United States billions of dollars per year. That's why reducing employee absences should be a top priority for any organization.
Having fun at work plays a significant part in reducing employee absences. Employees who experience considerable stress at work may also experience burnout, which can seriously affect productivity and overall health. People employed in fun workplaces are often happier and healthier. A more relaxed environment reduces the amount of stress and anxiety employees feel. This can lead to employees taking fewer days off due to illness or mental health reasons.
Enhanced engagement and productivity
In its annual U.S. employee engagement study for 2023, Gallup found highly engaged employees tend to be more productive. It's easy to see why. Fun activities at work can provide employees with a refreshing break from their standard demanding tasks. This helps boost the overall positive mood and lowers the stress in the workplace, allowing employees to focus on their jobs and achieve more in less time.
Better trust, communication, and collaboration
Employees can get to know each other better and develop good camaraderie in a relaxed environment. Research shows that 57% of people think having a good friend at work makes their jobs more enjoyable. And with increased joy at work comes higher energy, job satisfaction, productivity, engagement, and more.
As they become more friendly, team members develop trust and become more comfortable communicating. Better rapport and enhanced trust among the employees allow them to work together more cohesively and collaboratively.
From an internal communicator's perspective, nurturing a culture of communication and collaboration is paramount when fostering a healthy internal communications ecosystem.
Increased creativity and innovation
A recent study by Fei Ran Yang and Chun-Hsi Vivian Chen established a connection between fun in the workplace and an increase in employees' creative behaviors. Fun at work provides employees with positive feelings. These positive emotions can increase employees' creativity, boosting the quality and quantity of their creative output.
Yang and Chen's study also pointed out that when management supports, facilitates, and encourages having fun in the workplace, this also increases the correlation between fun and creativity at work.
Higher team morale, motivation, and performance
Chen and Yang's research also found that employees who work in a fun workplace are more motivated to perform well. Having fun at work causes employees to display a more positive attitude toward their jobs, which improves their ability and motivation to perform well. This is especially true in workplaces where employees receive rewards or recognition for success.
Research shows that immediate rewards increase employees' intrinsic motivation to succeed. You want to strengthen the association between the activity and the prize, making employees feel the task itself is rewarding. This motivation to perform enables employees to improve their workplace performance, which can increase success rates within the team and across the organization.
Improved job satisfaction and employee retention
Working in a fun workplace can make employees feel more valued and satisfied. Yang and Chen's research found that organizations that promote and encourage fun in the workplace reported higher employee job satisfaction and trust in management. And with higher job satisfaction and trust come higher employee retention and lower employee turnover levels.
Simply put, employees who are satisfied with their jobs are less likely to seek employment elsewhere. When ensuring employees have fun at work, organizations also work toward establishing better employee retention.
Ways To Weave Fun Into Employee Work
Despite the many benefits of keeping the workplace fun and engaging, organizations should avoid going overboard. Strike a balance between professionalism and keeping things fun and fresh in the workplace. Too much fun can distract employees from their tasks and have the opposite of the intended effect, causing a decrease in engagement.
That said, internal communicators have a unique opportunity to boost the fun quotient of the workplace ways without derailing the engagement train.
Consider leveraging interactive content like quizzes, polls, and contests to inject fun into workplace communications. You can seamlessly integrate these elements into internal emails or use them when crafting engaging newsletters employees will want to read.
For instance, try the following ideas:
- Kicking off the work week with a Monday morning quiz testing employees' knowledge of company history or industry trends, with a prize for the winner.
- Running a monthly poll to gather opinions on office décor, upcoming projects or initiatives, or the next team-building activity.
- Including humorous or eye-catching videos in training programs.
LinkedIn says the video format should be essential to successful internal communications. You can actively encourage employee engagement by including interactive video elements such as quizzes, clickable links, or feedback forms.
To incentivize participation, consider offering small rewards or recognition for active involvement. This will build a sense of community and motivate employees to get involved in the communication process.
Visual storytelling can be a powerful tool for making workplace communications more enjoyable and memorable. One compelling way to inject fun into internal communications is to create visually appealing infographics, videos, or GIFs to convey important messages and updates.
Engage for Success, a voluntary movement that promotes employee engagement to benefit employees, teams, and organizations, suggests adding visuals or presenting your story in video form to make the story memorable. Here's an idea: when introducing a new company policy or initiative, use a humorous animated video to explain its benefits and how it aligns with the organization's goals. Visual content will simplify complex information and add an element of entertainment, making it easier for employees to absorb and remember key details.
Themed events and celebrations
Another way to inject fun into the workplace is by organizing themed events, or virtual celebrations that align with key company milestones.
Some ideas for relevant virtual celebrations include online costume contests, trivia contests via email, or even using themed Zoom backgrounds. In its list of 17 virtual team celebration ideas, Indeed suggests playing virtual board games, watching a movie, or even planning virtual surprise parties. These events boost morale and create opportunities for employees to bond and feel a stronger connection to each other and the company culture.
Highlighting individual employees or teams in a fun and creative way can forge a sense of recognition and appreciation within the organization. The Academy to Innovate HR discusses the benefits, best practices, and examples of the employee spotlight, some of which we will detail here.
Benefits of the employee spotlight
- Increasing employee morale
- Building a culture of appreciation where employees and management alike value and acknowledge each other
- Nurturing connections between employees by acting as an icebreaker between coworkers, teams, and locations
- Boosting the company's branding by showing potential applicants what it's like to work for the organization
- Acting as a sales tool by humanizing the organization and giving customers a feel for who they're working with
Best practices when creating employee spotlights
- Decide on the best format, whether videos, blog posts, emails, etc.
- Choose team members to highlight from various areas of the organization.
- Promote the employee spotlight on multiple channels, such as the company website or social media.
- Track the results to obtain data (e.g., click-through rates, post engagement, direct feedback, and more) that will allow you to understand what works and improve as you continue the employee spotlight program.
Where to publish employee spotlights
Decision-makers can feature employee spotlights in a few different places:
- Short videos to share on social media sites, such as TikTok or YouTube
- Posts on your company blog
- A dedicated corner of the company newsletter
- Shareable social media posts introducing highlighted employees to your brand's followers
Consider including a regular feature in your internal communications that showcases employees' achievements, children or pets, or hobbies and interests outside of work. Share their stories through interviews, videos, or photo collages.
Highlighting employees in this way humanizes the workplace and helps coworkers get to know their colleagues more personally, building stronger relationships.
Humor and wit
Humor and wit can make your messages more engaging and relatable. When appropriate, use puns, memes, or clever wordplay to lighten the tone of emails or announcements.
However, when doing so, it is essential to be mindful of the company culture and audience. The Harvard Business Review reminds us that context matters. It's crucial to remember humor in the workplace should be inclusive and never offend or alienate anyone. Avoid wording someone could see as disrespectful, aggressive, harmful, vulgar, or controversial.
A well-placed joke can break the ice, build rapport, and create a more relaxed atmosphere, improving communication and collaboration among coworkers and teams.
Gaming and gamification
Business News Daily describes gamification as adding game elements to non-game activities, such as work. It recommends identifying activities with low employee engagement and "gamifying" them to improve engagement.
Integrate gamification elements into training programs to make learning and development more enjoyable. Gamification can include leaderboards, badges, and rewards for completing tasks or achieving milestones. You could turn mandatory compliance training into a game with quizzes, challenges, and friendly competition among teams. By adding an element of fun and competition, employees are more likely to engage with the content and retain essential information.
To ensure that fun initiatives align with employee preferences, it's a good idea to establish feedback channels that allow employees to propose ideas for improving the workplace atmosphere. Set up suggestion boxes, digital suggestion platforms, or regular feedback surveys where employees can suggest, brainstorm, and vote on fun activities or improvements.
Act on the feedback you receive and involve employees in planning and implementing these initiatives. These actions will empower employees and encourage their sense of ownership in creating a fun workplace.
Make the Workplace a Fun Place
Infusing fun into the workplace can have many positive effects. Organizations can increase job satisfaction and productivity, foster greater collaboration and creativity, and enhance employee retention and acquisition.
As an internal communicator, you can also harness these benefits to your organization's advantage. Transform your workplace into a place of joy and professionalism by embracing fun initiatives and aligning them with the organization's values and goals.