Why It’s Important to Make Sure Your Employees Have Fun at Work

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Work has historically been oriented toward the activity of, well, working. If we carried out the tasks and responsibilities we were hired to perform as expected, we were paid. If we did our work well over time, we got paid more. If we came through with good work for long enough, perhaps we got promoted. If we wanted to have fun in life, we did that in our personal lives, pursuing hobbies and interests with our family, friends, and other like-minded people.

As time has gone on, we’ve come to expect more from work. After all, we spend the bulk of our waking hours at our jobs. Maybe we should get more than just a paycheck from them?

The millennial generation, currently the largest generation in the workplace, has brought even greater expectations to the workplace — and fun is high on their list of priorities. Research by Beyond.com found that 39 percent of HR professionals describe millennials as “fun-loving,” making it the second-highest ranked attribute after “tech-savvy.”

Dig a little deeper, and we find fun is actually a significant variable in driving performance. For example, 81 percent of employees at companies that make Fortune’s annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list  say they work in a fun environment. At companies that don’t make the list, only 62 percent of employees say the same.

As Inc. has put it : “Fun [is] frivolous, we know — unless you want to attract and keep good employees.”

So, it’s worth the time it takes to spread a little joy in the workplace, whether it’s for you, another person, or your entire team. Here are some ideas for having more fun at work.

Hold a Cookie Contest

Quip, a collaborative productivity software firm, holds an annual cookie contest. Employees bake cookies to share with coworkers and compete in categories including Most Millennial Cookie, Best Non-Cookie Cookie, and Grand Champion Cookie.

Take a Patio Break

During the summer, the travel research site TripAdvisor transforms its outdoor patio to include a fire pit and lounge seating.

Bring a Furry Friend to Work

Amazon, Airbnb, and Radio Systems Corporation are just a few of the companies across the nation supporting pet-friendly policies like Bring Your Dog to Work Day. ShortStack, a self-service social media platform company, has an “open-dog policy.” The marketing firm Spyder Trap hosts “dog Fridays.” 

As Petco CEO Ron Coughlin told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “[Bringing your pet to work] just makes for a better environment … There’s statistics that show that people are more likely to stay with companies or much more likely to switch to a company if they have a pet-friendly workplace. It just makes people happier and gives us something to talk about and share experiences.”

Get Comfortable

At the offices of payroll software Gusto, workers enjoy a no-shoes policy. CEO and cofounder Josh Reeves was raised in a no-shoes household, and he decided to implement the same tradition at Gusto’s offices.

“Companies can be sterile and cold,” Reeves told The New York Times. “We want our workplace to be really comfortable. In some ways, people feel more like themselves when their shoes are off.”

Visitors to the company can see over 600 pairs of shoes stored in slots at the entrance, and they’re asked to remove their own shoes. They’re given a choice of wearing slippers, spa sandals, or company-branded socks. Gusto wants to help employees find a community at work, and the no-shoes policy ties into that mission.

More Fun Tips

  • Fun starts with you. If you want your work to be more fun, you need to make that a priority. Adopt a playful, fun-oriented attitude. Look for opportunities to embed fun in your daily work activities.
  • Fun shouldn’t be daunting. Any change starts with the first step. Take some baby steps by experimenting, trying new behaviors, determining what worked, and learning from what didn’t. Then, reapply your efforts accordingly.
  • Share the effort. By involving others, you spread the fun further and help to root it more firmly in your group or company.

Far from being silly or a waste of time, fun at work matters more than it ever has. As a bonus, the most fun activities and biggest morale boosters usually cost little to nothing! If you want to run the type of workplace that attracts the best talent and holds onto them for years to come, fun needs to be a part of your work equation!

It only takes a moment to make someone’s day, and in the process, you’ll make your own day a little brighter as well!

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc. Mario Tamayo is a principal with Tamayo Group Inc. They are the coauthors of Work Made Fun Gets Done! Easy Ways to Boost Energy, Morale, and Results .

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By Bob Nelson and Mario Tamayo