Back in the day when I first entered the labor force, work was a serious matter that needed to be taken, well…seriously. When we were taught how to do something, it was done that way or the highway. Socializing too often at the proverbial watercooler was frowned upon and kept to a minimum. If not, you risked being labeled as the office slacker. And the idea of having fun while at work was pretty much unheard of. Why? Because the prevailing thought was that if you were visiting with a coworker or having fun, you weren’t working. Working and having fun were mutually exclusive.
Fast-forward many decades (ouch!) and company culture is all the buzz. It’s no wonder, since a company’s culture is in essence its (collective) personality. Thankfully, today, a lot of organizations understand the philosophy behind a strict hardnosed work environment is not only antiquated, but the belief that workers having fun aren’t productive couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, research published in the book 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work by Dave Hemsath has shown that when employees enjoy themselves at work they are typically: more productive, more creative, experience greater job satisfaction, have more loyalty to their employers, and lower levels of absenteeism.
Another study published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior revealed a link between having fun and informal learning (a common way employees acquire new skills that improve their job performance). According to one of the study’s authors, Michael Tewes, it isn’t necessarily the fun activities that teaches the new skills, it’s the fun atmosphere that creates a better learning environment. Fun in the workplace can also bring co-workers together to create a cohesive team of workers that are able to get to know each other better, build greater trust, and are more apt to help each other.
Of course, like everything, there are pros and cons to a fun-loving company culture. Moderation is, of course, important—it can’t be just a free-for-all. Common sense will tell you too much fun does have the potential to hurt productivity, plus there are those, especially older workers from my Baby Boomer generation that still haven’t embraced the new philosophy. Like with everything in life, balance is key.
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