Why every company needs a Chief Fun Officer
It is worth ignoring the puerile title of this piece and focusing on the more substantive point made by the piece: “Besides making working lives more enjoyable, there is strong evidence that fun in the workplace packs a powerful punch in terms of organisational benefits. For example, I researched the restaurant industry (in collaboration with John Michel from Loyola University and Michael Tews from Penn State in the US), an environment with more than 60% employee turnover annually, and found that workers who socialised more in the workplace and who saw their co-workers and the workplace as more fun were less likely to leave.
Fun in the workplace can also foster more positive attitudes, help teams become more cohesive, and help people deal with or recover from stressful work experiences, while also developing stronger relationships.”
The author says that until the 1990s the dominant paradigm in the office or the factory was the maxim laid down by Henry Ford: “men work for two reasons. One is for wages, and one is for fear of losing their jobs”.
All of that changed when Silicon Valley giants like Google realised that they could make more money if their workers were more creative: “But the script for the workplace as a fun environment was rewritten by numerous Silicon Valley start-ups during the dot-com boom. They are now epitomised by the office perks that come with tech companies like Google. These encompass, variously: music and art studios, mini-golf courses, ping pong tables, foosball, climbing walls and even nap pods.”
So how can companies create relaxed, constructive environment for work and play in the office? “Our research has identified a range of factors that affect the way people judge events to be fun or not.
1. Make fun voluntary: The more voluntary an activity, the more likely it is people will see it as fun and enjoy participating…
2. Fun from the top: Workers are also likely to value fun in the workplace more highly if managers and leaders are supportive of fun. In simple terms, it is the difference between a manager who, as everyone runs to the break room to have birthday cake, signals “great, let’s all go and celebrate and then we will get back to work”, and one that mutters “here we go again, people are going to get distracted and we will lose 30 minutes of work time”….
3. Recognise different personalities: Personality traits are important. Optimistic people with a positive approach to life are more likely to treat fun activities favourably. Organisations that have a strong culture of fun and believe in the benefits of hiring people that fit the culture of their organisation are more likely to have employees who share fun as a common value…
4. Types of fun: The type of activity makes a difference. The research I’ve mentioned suggest events involving food, celebrations of personal milestones and workplace outings are best received. Avoid events where people risk making a fool of themselves in front of their co-workers…”