There is, buried somewhere deep in our psyche, an idea that it’s the serious, the boring and the power-crazy-cut-throat that drives our businesses forward. Think about the opening credits of ‘The Apprentice or Dragons’ Den, any film that includes ‘Wall Street’ in its title, and even drab suits and claustrophobic cubicles somehow become magical agents of professionalism and profit. Are these characters really the Productivity Ninjas a company needs to drive business?
A lot of people see ‘fun’ as the very opposite of work. Or they eagerly wait to clock off at 5pm so that work ends and fun begins. In the course of my work I’ve visited hundreds of offices, and I’ve seen how glaringly absent fun can be from many working environments. I’ve also seen how small and inexpensive things like bake-offs, office sweepstakes or the Friday beer trolley can make office life not only more fun and engaging, but feel more like having an extended family.
Creating positive morale and a feel-good factor is obviously a nice thing to do in its own right, but the benefits of fun go much deeper than that. Fun can reduce stress levels, cut down on sick days, increase creativity and improve productivity. And in a rapidly changing workforce, the millennial generation (those born roughly between 1980 and 2000) are not just looking for the organisations where they can earn the nice pay packets, they’re looking for the places that offer them a sense of fun and fulfillment. Just think about the companies that are changing our world, such as Facebook, Google and Apple. Their offices look more like someone accidentally switched over from the BBC business programmes and found Sky Sports or the CBeebies Channel instead. They’re playful, creative and interesting places, filled with chalkboards, astroturf and bowls of free chocolate.
But the good news is that you don’t need an office slide or a ping pong table to create that same sense of fun, belonging and engagement. So it’s time to re-educate ourselves. To unhook ourselves from the limiting belief that fun has no place in the office, or is counter-productive. It’s time to embrace the stress-busting, creativity-enhancing, conflict-reducing, morale-boosting, sickness-day-busting power of fun. And since it also enhances productivity, the question is no longer can you afford to, the question is can you afford not to.
By Graham Allcott