What are the benefits of incorporating humor and other fun in your employees’ daily routines? They are more productive, more creative, healthier (less sick time) and you guessed it happier (less turnover).
Why? Because humor helps employees handle difficult situations, build teamwork, release stress and validate each other.
Jane Whitney Gibson agrees that having fun in the workplace serves up both personal and organizational benefits. She is a professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University.
Smart Business spoke to Gibson about the steps that lead to a corporate culture that embraces having fun on a daily basis.
What are some benefits to having fun at work?
On the personal side, having a good laugh releases endorphins and adrenaline, substances known to increase energy and boost creativity.
Personal well-being is not the only benefit, however.
Workplace enjoyment correlates to increased organizational creativity and productivity. Just ask the fun-loving people at Southwest Airlines, where employees are hired for their ready smiles and positive attitude, then trained for skills.
Stew Leonard’s stores in Connecticut and New York are other examples. Employees have fun at pie-eating contests, hayrides and ski trips. The popular retail chain has been referred to as ‘the Disneyland of dairy stores’ because of its costumed characters and scheduled entertainment designed to make shopping a fun event for customers.
And, by the way, both Southwest and Stew Leonard’s are extraordinarily profitable within their industries.
How do companies ratchet up their fun quotient without going through a complete cultural overhaul?
Most people know how to have fun, but they need permission to have fun at work without feeling guilty. Corporate managers can achieve that by being a P-A-L.
- P Pay for fun.
- A Allocate time for fun.
- L Lead the way.
Nothing reinforces a new activity like paying people to do it. DWL, a Toronto consulting firm, gives each employee $1,000 annually to go out and do something fun. A contest ensues when people bring in pictures of their activities to see who had the most fun. The winner receives $5,000 for the next year’s activity.
Meanwhile, at some places of employment, employees are often made to feel guilty if they leave their desks to eat lunch. Fun activities such as organized sports during work hours encourage people to take a break and come back refreshed and eager to face whatever tasks they have to perform. Likewise, a lounge with video games, aquariums and comfy seats or on-site gymnasium/workout facilities encourages healthy lifestyles and ‘get-out-of-the-rut’ breaks.
What do you mean by the ‘L’ statement above: ‘lead the way’?
Management cannot just send out a memo and expect the workplace to transform into a fun environment. Management has to model the behavior it wants from employees.
When Southwest Airlines CEO and president Herb Kelleher showed up in a hangar in the middle of the night dressed in a flowered hat and purple dress, employees couldn’t miss his ‘work-hard-play-hard’ message.
A recent United Nations study found that Americans work, on average, more days per year than employees in any other industrialized nation, so it only makes sense that organizational leaders should follow the PAL strategy.
The first prerequisite is for the leadership team to realize that fun is an effective business strategy. When employees start having fun, morale increases, loyalty deepens and teamwork is enhanced.
Work-hard-play-hard is a winning strategy for everyone.
JANE WHITNEY GIBSON is a professor of management at the H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship at Nova Southeastern University, where she serves as editor of The Journal of Applied Management and Entrepreneurship. Gibson is the author of numerous articles and books, including “The Supervisory Challenge and Organizational Communication: A Managerial Approach.” Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.