Creating a Workplace That's Fun

Creating a workplace that's fun means more than just blowing up balloons and serving birthday cake for special occasions. Today's employees want to feel respected, and they want to feel that they matter to the company.

They also want to be kept informed about the company and its concerns which, if they are made to feel like an important part of the company, should be their concerns, as well.'

Employees expect to be treated fairly and consistently, and they expect to be challenged and heard.

That said, employees also need the opportunity to unwind occasionally in the workplace. For that reason, some creative "timeouts" for fun and games especially celebrations will help create happier, more motivated employees, which translates to greater company success.

Creating a workplace that's fun is easier for small businesses such as kitchen and bath dealerships, because the business usually consists of the owner and no more than 10 or so employees.'

The fun, however, has to start with the boss. Wear a smile. Let it be the beginning of a strategy that will make your place of business a happier place to work.

Set expectations
People generally want to know what is expected of them in any given situation. In any organization, it's easier for employees to achieve a sense of comfort and trust when all members of the company know exactly what to expect regarding their authority and responsibility.

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

  • Create a fair and consistent environment. Make sure that every employee in the company is treated equally. As the manager, your challenge is to be sure everyone believes and feels that you're fair and consistent in dealing with all issues. The development of policies and procedures is generally the best way to achieve this.
  • Challenge people. Whenever possible, try to create jobs that minimize constant repetition. Be sure to include job responsibilities in which the employee is likely to tackle new problems or devise new solutions for their tasks. People want to learn and want to be challenged, but they also want to know what to expect. Job descriptions are important. Keep the challenge positive, and the results will be positive, as well.
  • Be attentive to the people in your organization. Listen to each and every employee. When your employees know that you take them seriously, they're more likely to make positive contributions.
  • Communicate success and failure regularly. Be direct and honest in communicating with your employees. Show sincere appreciation for your employees and you'll generate tremendous good will in the workplace. In addition to daily opportunities to praise, recognize and counsel your people, you should be doing bi-annual or annual employee performance appraisal reviews. These allow both management and employees the opportunity to communicate openly.

Never miss an opportunity to recognize employees for things they perceive as valuable and important. Then, after every third or fourth time you've dispensed sincere and deserving praise, you'll find that your employees will also be very receptive to constructive criticism regarding how a failure might be transformed into a positive opportunity.

Creating outlets
People who work and that's most of today's adult population spend more than 10,000 days of their life at work. This is a big chunk of time, so shouldn't we be able to enjoy as much of it as possible?

Fun within the context of the business world means feeling comfortable being oneself and interacting with others, even while working and accomplishing tasks alongside of other employees we like and respect.

Here are a few ideas to stimulate your thinking about the kinds of outlets you can create for your employees and yourself:

  1. Create an annual apple pie or Texas chili cook-off. Award prizes and serve the winning recipe at work.
  2. Organize a company sports tournament anything from ping-pong to horseshoes to volleyball to softball.
  3. Do a recipe exchange as part of a monthly "bring-a-treat-for-lunch" activity.
  4. Create a "Hero of the Week" Customer Service Award. At your weekly staff meetings have everyone tell what "extras" they did for their customers. Then everyone votes for the winner and you pass around a "traveling trophy."
  5. 'Do a company or branch sales incentive (monthly, quarterly or yearly). Everyone wins money and the "team" does a field trip to the local mall.
  6. If you're the boss, do a barbecue for your employees at your home.
  7. Buy season tickets to a local theater group, symphony or sports team. Spread the tickets around among your employees.
  8. Bring in a masseuse and give everyone a 30-minute massage after a particularly busy day, week or month. This works especially well if you do it during a sale.
  9. Do kid's day or half-day, and allow the employees to bring their children to work.
  10. Organize noontime walks or exercise sessions to boost energy and morale.

Company outings
Company outings should be a combination of employee and employee/family outings. They can create bonds by merging work life with home life.

A sense of parity is established when a group of co-workers gets to eat hamburgers and hot dogs at a picnic table with the owners and managers of the company. The impact of this type of outing is long-lived.

Ideas for company outings can range from staff meetings at a pizza parlor to the annual company picnic and/or Christmas party. One of my most successful programs was when we did an annual "Company Outing." It was a Friday-evening-through-Sunday getaway for employees and their families. (Yes, we even closed on Saturday!)

We did house boats on lakes, and rented houses in the mountains and at the beach. We held our own "Olympics," organized team functions, played real and miniature golf, and lots more. The company paid for part of this event, but the employees also contributed food and money. These outings were looked forward to, and accomplished the goal of helping make the company a fun workplace "family."

Business owners should also take advantage of every opportunity to celebrate truly important moments within the organization. Celebrate sales and profit achievements. Celebrate new projects, completion of jobs, completion of training segments, year-end success, and similar landmark events.

Celebrating birthdays and anniversaries is nice, but this really doesn't promote and/or encourage greater productivity. And that's really what your objective should be.

'Warm fuzzies'
Employees spend half their waking hours at work. It should feel good being there. So you need to include all employees when working toward making the workplace clean, fun and interesting.

What I call "warm fuzzies" are important, too. For example, it's great to celebrate events and promote activities but it's also very important to "touch" each employee directly, and let them know that they're valued contributors to the organization.

I'm talking here about a lot of "little things" which, while requiring minimal effort, will have a big effect on morale. Some examples of this might be leaving a "thank you" note or a candy bar on an employee's desk, or taking an employee who really likes good coffee out for a special cup of coffee.

Try to make the the "warm fuzzies" you do an extension of yourself. Remember, though they have to be sincere and timely to have real meaning.

Here's a simple checklist to help make working at your company more fun:

  • Smile. Make a sincere smile a trademark of your company, starting with yourself.
  • Communicate. Offer all employees a variety of vehicles for communicating, such as memos, voice mail, meetings, e-mail, and the like.
  • Allow mistakes. Translate mistakes into problem-solving opportunities for employees.
  • Mandate vacations. Make sure all your employees take vacations.
  • Create family events. Try to link work and family life in situations where employees will have a good time.
  • Support outside activities. Offer company support for outside involvement on the part of employees.
  • Encourage healthy lifestyles. Promote exercise, healthy eating, no smoking and overall well-being.
  • Celebrate. Take every opportunity to celebrate positive situations.

Lastly, remember as the "boss," you control the "fun pulse" of your company. Be aware, be alert, and have fun!