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A Dozen Ideas for Workplace Fun

Organizations that successfully create employee-friendly environments may find themselves laughing all the way to the bank. Research shows that fun in the workplace actually motivates employees to produce more and work longer. It also helps workers deal with difficulties, relieves stress, and enhances employee creativity, communication, and teamwork.

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The positive consequences of workplace fun can also show up in customer satisfaction. Customers like doing business with people who enjoy their work. Case in point: Southwest Airlines. The company passionately encourages its employees to practice on-the-job fun – and it beats the competition year after year in customer satisfaction surveys.

This doesn’t mean business is merely a game or that work should be silly. Implementing fun in the workplace simply means creating a relaxed, positive environment in which people can enjoy work and are inspired to contribute. In fact, studies show employees still want to be challenged and need to be engaged in doing something important and worthwhile. They don’t want nonstop easy chores, nor do they want constant goofing around. Both will lead to on-the-job boredom.

Here are 12 creative ideas for adding some fun to your workplace.

Celebrate the offbeat. Success should absolutely be recognized, but why not celebrate a faux pas or two? When employees are allowed to laugh at their own mistakes, it defuses the fear of failure and creates a positive and supportive learning environment.

Initiate amusing contests. Sponsor frequent innocuous contests that generate rapport and teamwork. Announce a worst tie contest or ugliest coffee mug, or team up for a workplace trivia competition.

Create a “fun pass.” When it’s time for the rewards, hand out fun passes that entitle winners to an afternoon of various fun activities.

Make a funny board. Designate a humor corner or bulletin board and post jokes and cartoons. Not only will it promote workplace humor, but it can serve as an example of what’s worksite-appropriate humor. Change the content frequently to keep things fresh.

Encourage personalized décor. Let employees express themselves by decorating workspaces with photos, posters, or whatever makes them feel positive.

Encourage breaks and keep the break room fun. Short timeouts stimulate productivity. Employees return to work recharged and are able to think more clearly. Outfit the break room with games, puzzles, humorous books, magazines, and videos that will briefly take employees’ minds off work and keep them smiling.

Throw surprise attacks. Breakfast, lunch, or afternoon snacks – use any excuse to give employees a surprise treat now and then.

Get into the holiday spirit. Start some fun traditions to mark the seasons or any of the annual holidays. Announce a costume contest for Halloween, publish an April Fools’ newsletter, host a parking lot cookout on Boss’s Day. Consider inviting customers to take part in the fun – by letting them judge the costume contest, for instance.

Introduce unique observances. Create theme days of your own and encourage staff participation, like National Barefoot Day. Or regularly honor a department and create a theme surrounding that celebration.

Incorporate humor into training sessions. Teachers often maintain that students perform better when learning is fun. That adage holds true for students of every age and experience. Humor has been shown to increase retention and decrease anxiety.

Organize a “fun squad.” Rotate employees on a volunteer committee whose purpose is to plan social outings and events. It will get everyone in on the creativity and ensures employee-promoted events that boost camaraderie.

Laugh at yourself. Leaders set the tone for positive on-the-job behaviors. Additionally, supervisors are the single most important determinant of whether work is fun. Managers must lead with a good-natured attitude and be willing to be on the receiving end of jokes when it warrants. Self-deprecating humor demonstrates a healthy outlook and keeps leaders approachable and human.

This article was originally published in Impact Magazine, the online publication of Wipfli Young, a Madison, Wisconsin-based accounting and business consulting firm (www.wipfli.com). Reprinted with permission.

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