Are we having fun yet? Adding humor and play to the workplace makes employees more efficient, better able to handle problems effectively, and less prone to stress-related burnout, according to Luke Barber and Dr. Matt Weinstein, authors of Work Like Your Dog: Fifty Ways to Work Less, Play More, and Earn More. Recent research supports that notion. One California State University Long Beach study, for example, found that people who have fun at work are more creative, effective decision makers who take fewer sick days.
In today’s era of doing more with less staff, a little levity can go a long way to boost morale and, by extension, productivity. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Use the element of surprise. Create unexpected tokens of appreciation, from small gestures like free bagels on a Friday morning to workday events like an afternoon movie matinee for the team.
- Encourage personalized workstations. At Google’s East Coast headquarters in Manhattan, employees are invited to draw on the walls of their cubbies and offices to foster creativity. Urge your staff to bring in plants, posters, pictures, and other items that inspire them. Give an award for the most creative workstation and invite the rest of the team to tour it.
- Organize friendly competitions. If your staff is sports-minded, hold an NCAA basketball pool. If they’re movie buffs, try an Oscar pool. Or create a break room with a foosball table and a Nerf basketball hoop, where staff can take 10-minute play breaks. Minnesota-based Web specialists Horizontal Integration digitalized the idea by equipping a conference room with a flat-screen TV and Wii gaming console.
- Celebrate benchmarks. In addition to company anniversaries, honor less obvious milestones, such as the firm’s 100th client. Mark the occasion with a paid day of giving back to your community, during which your team volunteers at a soup kitchen or tree-planting, followed by an evening of karaoke.