Using Fun to Enhance Your Workplace

Just because the kitchen and bath firm down the street is stale, routine and full of stress doesn't mean yours has to be. Take it from a guy who knows work can be fun, exciting and challenging for you and your employees. And, when you learn how to bring fun into the workplace, you'll find you have less turnover, happier, more loyal employees and greater productivity.

While it may sound trite, it all starts with a smile. A warm, sincere smile from you will rub off on customers and employeesand will not only increase employee satisfaction but also lead to friendlier, easier-to-do-business-with clients.

Creating an enjoyable work environment means more that blowing out candles on a birthday cake or an occasional pizza night out, however. Today's employees want to feel respected and that they matter. They expect to be treated fairly and consistently, and they expect to be challenged and heard. But, finding ways to interject fun and games into your business will make it a much better work environment.

Spelling It Out
Companies need to create vehicles to help blur the lines between work and play. They need to help employees feel that what they do at work is fun. The playful exchanges at work permit the development of enthusiasm and teamwork, and this, in turn, breeds creative ideas that can easily be transformed into high levels of productivity.

To achieve a level of enjoyment and fun at work, some basic expectations for employees and the company should be defined:

1. Create a Fair and Consistent Environment. Make sure that every employee in the company is treated equally. The slightest sense of favoritism or bias toward a person, group or situation will lead you to morale issues and possibly even legal exposure. The development of a written, fair, firm and consistent policies and procedures manual will help you minimize problems in this area.

2. Challenge People. Try to create jobs that minimize constant repetition with little variation. Empower employees to tackle new challenges and opportunities and to look for new ways to accomplish their jobs. Cross-train employees with other responsibilities. By encouraging people to learn new skills, they will become more valuable to the company and will achieve a greater degree of self gratification and self confidence. People want to be challenged, but when they do succeed and achieve, you, the boss, have to recognize and reward them with positive feedback.

3. Be Attentive to the People in Your Organization. Be a good communicator; 70 percent of this should be about being a good listener. When employees know you are listening to them and taking them seriously, they will be more likely to make positive contributions to the company. As a consultant I learned very early on that the best solutions to the problems identified by management will, in many cases, be solved with the input and support of the employees I interview.

4. Communicate Success and Failure Regularly. Always be 100 percent honest and direct in communicating successes and failures with your employees. You can transform both positive and negative experiences into exciting opportunities. Always be honest, be direct, be sincere and most importantly, be yourself.

Adding Fun
Fun within the context of the business world means feeling comfortable to be oneself and to interact even while working and accomplishing tasks with other individuals you respect.

I always thought it was a little "corny" when we referred to our business as a "family." But, it was! We liked each other, we helped each other, we respected each other and we worked hard and played hard. We communicated openly and often. Everyone knew where they stood at all times. Also, we did a lot of different things to create a fun environment. For instance:

We did an annual "Company Outing." We closed on Saturday and all employees and their family members did a Friday evening to Sunday evening getaway. We had the "Company Olympics," and everyone contributed to the meals. Good family interaction creates bonds by merging work life with home life. Names and faces come together.

We did an annual Christmas Party at our home for the employees and their significant others. We always had some kind of entertainment choral groups, magicians, Santa Claus etc.
Every Saturday, before the store opened, we all cleaned the showroom. While this doesn't sound like fun, we always had treats and good coffee and spent the hour talking about everything. It also gave a sense of pride to see how great the showroom looked.

We did "Hero of the Week" awards (a traveling trophy) for the employee who had done something special (above and beyond the call) for either a customer, a fellow employee or the company.

Everyone dressed in costumes for Halloween and we encouraged customers to do the same. There were lots of impromptu pizza parties, picnics and birthday celebrations.

Every year around the holidays, instead of exchanging gifts, as a group we decided to sponsor a family through the Salvation Army. Everyone participated in making it a special time for part of our "extended family"a family in our community who needed a hand. It was a team-building effort, and rewarding.

We loved to celebrate a good month, a nice order, a wedding, a birth, a birthday or an award. By celebrating both personal and business performance, we were able to create an environment that equates fun with business success.

Whenever possible, support or organize ongoing programs of informal athletic competition. Encourage and support the efforts of employees who want to organize softball, bowling, tennis and other activities. When supported by the company, more people will participate.

Encourage "healthy" employees. Those who want to stop smoking or drinking or lose weight will need the support of both family and co-workers. When they feel better, you will also.

Cultural Sensibility
Define a culture for your company. The day-to-day practice of cultural sensibility is the ultimate driving force for the success of the company. A vivid example of the company that lives and breathes its culture is the Harley-Davidson company.

Harley-Davidson has a culture defined by five formal values. These values are communicated to all employees as part of the recruiting, hiring and orientation process and are promoted, reinforced and used every day as part of the life of the company. These values are:

  • Tell the Truth.
  • Be Fair.
  • Keep Your Promise.
  • Respect the Individual.
  • Encourage Intellectual Curiosity.

Harley-Davidson goes further, supporting these basic values by identifying issues that are always a concern to the organization. All employees are reminded of these concerns via a simple statement that identifies these issues. These continuing concerns are:

  • Quality
  • Participation
  • Productivity
  • Flexibility
  • Cash Flow

Take another look at these two lists. Notice how similar they are to the "Golden Rule" of times gone by. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It may seem trite, but it still works, and it even makes more sense for the successful company of today.
Finally, here's a self-help checklist to make work more fun:

1. Smile. Make a sincere smile a trademark of your company starting with you.
2. Communicate. Offer all of your employees as many ways as possible to communicate (verbal, written, meetings, evaluations, etc.)
3. Allow Mistakes. Translate mistakes into problem-solving activities.
4. Create Family Events. Link work and family in fun situations.
5. Support Outside Interests. Offer company support for outside involvement.
6. Encourage Healthy Lifestyles. Promote exercise, healthy eating, no smoking and well-being.
7. Celebrate. Take an opportunity to celebrate positive situations.
Remember, "All work and no play" well, you get the idea.'