It’s important to have fun at work.
Traditional wisdom states the following: “Work is not supposed to be fun. That’s why it’s called work.” A corollary of this principle states that if you see someone having fun at work, they’re slacking off. However, research shows that this dismal view of work is completely wrong.
In “The Levity Effect: Why it Pays to Lighten Up”, bestselling author Adrian Gostick and humorist Scott Christopher reveal how humor in the workplace has the following benefits:
- It helps build camaraderie.
- It increases productivity.
- It enhances employee satisfaction and loyalty.
- It encourages creativity and innovation for a better workplace and bigger profits.
According to Bob Pike, author of The Fun Minute Manager, a fun work environment is one in which formal and informal activities occur regularly that are designed to uplift people’s spirits and remind people of their value to their managers, their organization, and to each other.
These activities include:
- The use of humor;
- Opportunities for self development; or
- Recognition of achievements and milestones.
Imagine waking up each morning looking forward to the fun that you’re going to have at work that day! This can become a reality. How? By coming up with ways to have fun at work. Here are 25 ideas to help you get started.
25 Ways to Have Fun at Work
1.Distribute Page-a-Day Calendars.
A company in California distributes page-a-day calendars on different subjects to employees at the beginning of each year. The subjects range from “Jeopardy,” to Dilbert cartoons, to gardening tips.
Since everyone’s calendar is different employees share the tips, jokes, or riddles that they get each day with everyone else. Follow their lead and do something similar. (From “301 Ways to Have Fun at Work”).
2. Institute Pub Thursday.
On the third Thursday of the month, go to a pub for food and/or drinks and celebrate achievements, anniversaries, birthdays, and just making it through another month. (From “The Levity Effect”).
3. Decorate the Workplace.
Allowing employees to decorate their workspace is a great morale booster. CNN iReport has a whole report dedicated to creative cubicles which you can take a look at here. Three of my favorites are the following:
In addition: personalize your workspace with things such as the following:
- Family and pet photos.
- Fresh flowers.
- Bright colors that you enjoy.
4. Have Sports Tournaments.
Install a basketball hoop in the parking lot and start a tournament for employees during the lunch break. (From “301 Ways to Have Fun at Work”). Or, start a company softball league. Employees will have fun, they’ll become better team players, and they’ll even get exercise.
5. Goofing Around.
Organized goofing around can foster team spirit and increase creativity. Contests like relay races in office chairs and team Nerf gun fights help break up a workday and allow everyone to bring a renewed spirit to their work. (From “301 Ways to Have Fun at Work”).
6. Try Laughter Yoga.
Laughter yoga proponents argue that voluntary laughter provides the same physiological and psychological benefits as spontaneous laughter. Have a Laughter Yoga session before each meeting to lower stress level and have more productive meetings that generate lots of creative ideas.
7. Build a Wall of Fame.
Designate a wall in the office as “The Wall of Fame”. Decorate it with awards, thank-you notes from clients, news clippings of your company’s successes, and so on. (From “The Levity Effect”).
8. Create a Humor Bulletin Board.
Bring more humor into the workplace by starting a humor bulletin board. Make it a point to look for cartoons and jokes which poke fun at the circumstances that cause negativity or conflict in the office. Start with a blank board each Monday morning.
However, keep all of the old cartoons and jokes and put them together in a scrapbook. Award the scrapbook to the employee who does the most to foster good humor in the workplace. (Source).
9. Create a Bucket List Bulletin Board.
Hang up a whiteboard in a central area and write “Bucket List” in big black letters on it. Ask employees to write down an item that’s on their bucket list on the board. Another type of “collaboration board” you could set up is writing a question at the top of the board and encouraging employees to write down their answer.
10. Have a “Success Bell”.
Some companies have a “Success Bell” set up in an accessible space of the workplace. When someone in the office helps a client or makes a new sale they ring a bell and everyone cheers. (Source).
11. Set Up a Humor Room
The benefits of laughter have been well-documented. So bring more laughter into the office by turning the coffee room into a humor room. Stock it with stand-up comedy routines on DVD or audio tapes. (Source).
12.Get Some Toys.
Mary Owen from Oracle Corp. says the following: “We are under a lot of pressure and toys are our comfort. We need them like Linus needs his blanket.”
Toys for the office can include koosh balls, pez dispensers, hula hoops, a sand tray, wooden blocks, origami paper, and so on.
13. Create Art Together.
Art can be therapeutic. Work together to create a mural on an office wall, or create some other type of art together. (From “The Levity Effect”).
14. Have Pizza and Ice Cream Socials.
Be one of those offices in which reaching impotent goals and milestones is celebrated. One idea is to have a pizza and ice cream social each time an important goal is reached.
15. Start an Employee Picture Wall.
Designate a wall of the office and fill it with employee photos. Take candid photos of employees at work and hand them up on the wall. You can also have themes. For example, one month have employees bring in photos of themselves as kids; another month, have everyone bring in a photo of themselves on vacation.
16. Have Regular Meetings That Are Not Business Related.
Once a quarter you can have a meeting that’s not business related. Here are some ideas on what to do during those meetings:
- Give juggling kits to all your employees and have a “meeting” in which everyone learns to juggle. (From “Work Happy Now”).
- Give your employees improv training — it’s fun an it helps employees become more adaptable, improve their communications skills, and become better at public speaking.
17. Have Sword Fights.
When tensions get high at Social Sauce, a user-generated content and communication platform in New York City, employees break out foam swords. Jenn de la Vega, a marketing assistant there, explains the following:
“In an office of mostly Internet and tech males, the sword fights diffuse tension by allowing coworkers to play similarly to the online games they play or develop.” (Source).
18. Solve a Riddle.
A high tech company in Reston, Virginia posts a riddle in their weekly newsletter. The first person to answer the riddle correctly receives a small gift valued at $5 or less. The gifts are often nostalgic toys, like a slinky, Play-Doh, and other items that can be played with or shared around the office.
A company representative stated, “Everyone in the office looks forward to seeing what is awarded that week. The toys often get passed around and borrowed. It’s a big hit!” (Source).
19. Send Employees Hand-Written Notes.
Colleen Barrett, who retired as CEO of Southwest Airlines, sent over 3,000 handwritten notes every month for nearly 30 years thanking employees for specific things they had done to improve the passenger experience for Southwest customers. (Source).
20. Start a “Fun Committee”.
A “fun committee” should be formed to find effective ways to add fun to work. The committee should consist of representatives from a wide range of departments, and committee membership should rotate. (Source).
21. Celebrate Employees’ Birthdays.
Celebrate birthdays once a month. Have cake and ice cream, and give those who are celebrating their birthday that month the opportunity to “Spin the Wheel” and win a prize.
22. Celebrate Employees Work Anniversaries.
Mark each employee’s anniversary with the company by giving them a small gift or a gift card. The amount of the gift card can even be tied to the amount of years the employee has been with the company.
23. Allow Employees To be Spontaneous.
Spontaneity is an important element of fun. On a Southwest Airlines flight, Flight attendant David Holmes spontaneously decided to rap the safety instructions at the beginning of the flight. It was a big hit with passengers and now he does it all the time.
24. Blast Music.
At Microsoft they blast music at three o’clock when everyone’s energy is starting to slump: Some people get up and dance and everyone claps when the song is over.
25. Celebrate the Holidays as An Office.
Celebrate the holidays by having Secret Santas for Christmas (or having a cookie exchange), pumpkin decorating contests for Halloween, and a Turkey Trot for Thanksgiving.
Have Fun at Work – Bonus Ideas
26. Set Up a Game Room.
Put games in the break room. Get a ping-pong table or a Foosball table. Set up a chess set for a continuing game. Get a Wii to encourage exercise. You can even have a community jigsaw puzzle that people can work on during their coffee or lunch break.
27. Have a Talent Show.
Give employees the opportunity to showcase their talents on stage, whether playing an instrument, dancing, or doing magic tricks by setting up a talent show. This production also has a team-building component –employees from all departments will have to collaborate in order to organize the event.
Here’s a suggestion from Fastcompany.com: Bring a karaoke machine to the office and stage “American Idol” contests at lunch break.
28. Start a 30-Day Happiness Challenge.
In his book, “The Happiness Advantage”, Harvard-trained positive psychologist Shawn Achor explains that having happy employees gives companies a competitive advantage. He further argues that employees can rewire their brains for happiness by following 6 simple habits for a period of 30 days.
I explain what the six habits are in my post “6 Easy-Breezy Habits for a Rollickingly Happy Brain“. In addition, I created a Happiness Journal that can be used to document follow-through on the 6 habits for 30 days. Do the following:
- Download the happiness journal;
- Print it out and make copies;
- Spiral bind the journals; and
- Hand them out to your employees.
Thirty days later you’ll have happier, more productive, and more creative employees.
Right now you might be thinking, “I’d love to do these things at work, but I’m not the boss”.
If that’s the situation that you’re in, arm yourself with all the evidence that’s out there that proves that having fun at work makes employees more productive and more creative. Then, convince your boss to introduce some of the activities described above into the workplace.
Here are some more benefits of having fun at work:
- Play encourages us to approach opportunities instead of retreating.
- Play promotes exploration.
- Play induces the state of flow–the feeling of being totally absorbed in what you’re doing.
Most people will spend one-third of their working lives at work. If you’re not having fun at work, you should definitely start looking for ways to change that. The 25 ideas presented above are a good place to start. Live your best life by having fun at work.