• May 2014

Barbara Mitchell Offers 3 Ways to Have Serious Fun at Work

By Barbara Mitchell
HR expert and co-author
The Essential HR Handbook and The Big Book of HR

Several years ago, my business book club read a great book by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher titled, The Levity Effect—Why It Pays to Lighten Up.

The authors discuss the benefits of levity in the workplace, and how it can have a positive influence on productivity. Their research covers some highly successful companies, including Zappos, Enterprise, and Nike.

They also share amazing research from The Great Place to Work Institute, which says that great companies consistently earn higher scores in their surveys because employees actually have fun at work.

In other words, fun at work can help your organization be more productive and more profitable.

Here are three ways you can take a page from the have-fun-at-work playbook:

  • Host a “Surprise Tuesday.” One company I worked with had the general manager create something different and fun for the staff to do each Tuesday. One week it might be popcorn at 3 pm in the break room, and the following week it might be a drawing for a gift card. Every once in a while, there would be a really big surprise, like a drawing for a day off with pay. As the GM said to me, “No one ever quits on Monday.”
  • Play golf in the hallway. Another company I worked with had long corridors with carpeted floors. The president of the company was a golfer and from time to time, he would set up holes in the hallway and a lighthearted golf game would be held that the president actively participated in. This accomplished two things: 1) it was fun to play, and 2) it showed a different side of him from what his employees usually experienced. They could see that he had a sense of humor and could relax and have fun.

  • Bond by paying it forward. Another great way to build serious fun into your workplace is to gather your employees together around a cause you believe in. I am on the board of Habitat for Humanity Northern Virginia, and we see it all the time among our great corporate sponsors and volunteers. There is nothing like sponsoring a day on a Habitat for Humanity site to bring your team together. While you are putting up drywall or painting a bedroom, your team is having some fun and getting to know each other better—all while helping a deserving family have a safe and affordable place to live. What might be a cause your team could work on together?

Have you built some fun or lightheartedness into your workplace?

If not, “The Levity Effect” devotes an entire chapter to 142 ways to have fun at work, with examples from Google, Enterprise, Whole Foods, and many others. You’ll find the book here.

My challenge to you is to lighten up and see what happens in your workplace! You may see higher productivity and lower turnover and, in the meantime, have some serious fun!

Illustration by MichaelGibbs.com from “PR Rules: The Playbook.”


About Barbara Mitchell

Mitchell is a human resources and organization development consultant who is widely known in the areas of recruitment and retention. She has experience in both for-profit and nonprofit sectors and has consulted for a variety of organizations around the world.

She served in senior human-resources leadership positions with Marriott International and several technology firms in the Washington, DC, area before co-founding the Millennium Group International, which she sold in 2008.

Her books include The Essential HR Handbook, and The Big Book of HR. Click here to buy the book.

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