By Nat Measley
Any business leader will agree that a successful program for their operation is one that makes their organization more efficient or effective. Enlightened business leaders constantly take the opportunity to enhance their existing programs for workplace fun. How can a program for workplace fun become more effective and efficient? Further, what would the benefits of a more effective program for fun within your culture be?
Imagine a program for workplace fun in which employees actually attended and engaged. People would be more apt to connecting, communication and bonding as a team over longer term, more sustainable time period. Sounds amazing, right?
A healthy program for fun at work has essentials, foundations that ensure you’ll get the culture, leadership and investment to perform optimally. They are called the 3 Cs and they are as follows: Consistency, on Company Time and Culture Compliant.
Let us take a closer look at why consistent fun that occurs on company time and is compliant to your culture and your people will maximize the impact of your fun programs.
Consistency: The traditional model for workplace fun generally involves two specific high-profile events. They give employees a chance to connect and share, celebrate and bond. They’re typically pure fun and have been around since the dawn of business. You probably already plan these events.
They are … the Company Picnic and the Holiday Party.
You might spend months preparing for these celebrations. And they can be valuable for your team, no doubt. But any morale boost they produce is fleeting – maybe just a few days, or a week, tops. Before you know it, your employees may fall into a rut of apathy about the workplace; at least until the next special event many months later. Consider that this apathy, lack of motivation and connection costs you money, productivity and loyalty.
As opposed to planning two large events each year, you should focus on consistent delivery of engagement. When it comes to fun in the workplace, consistency is key and should help to make fun feel as natural and typical to the staff as the rush hour commute or weekly meetings.
Fun is like exercise. Stick to a consistent regimen, and you’ll enjoy long-lasting results. So get out your calendar and a red pen, and select the dates for consistent fun. Monthly fun programs are an easy starting point and offer six-times the amount of fun than only the holiday party and company picnic.
On Company Time: Studies conducted on employees and work-family balance show that employees value their time with family and friends much more today than ever before. Time is among the most highly valued “commodities.” Yet, company leaders hesitate to schedule fun events on company time. Doing so, they believe, impacts productivity and is merely a distraction. And, yes, it can! Thus, often, plans are made to usurp valuable down-time for employee engagement with events scheduled during evening hours or weekends.
Work is stressful enough and the gift of engagement in fun activities helps employees blow off some steam and stress, and re-set their perspective of their colleagues and daily tasks. That’s why fun should happen on company time; and fun should take less than 15-minutes.
Many companies – and those poor administrators stuck to planning their events and off-site meetings – follow the same agenda: meetings from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and team building from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. And what happens after 6:00 p.m.? That’s the time reserved for the mandatory happy hour and team dinner, of course. That doesn’t sound like fun for anyone. The “fun” is too long and disrupts family time.
Consider instead a 15-minute ice-breaker at 8:30 a.m. to set the tone for a productive day, followed by a brief team activity after lunch to re-energize the group for the rest of the day. And then, at 4:00 p.m., send people home for some downtime. Be a super-hero, and save the company some serious money on the booze and food for the evening!
It’s also easier to attract talent and start adopting a culture of fun and the positive results that follow when fun is delivered in short stints. This is not to say that there is no place for moderate to lengthy fun events. But, strive for consistent fun on company time as desired functions – in lieu of a fewer events with longer duration.
Culture Compliance: The last of the 3 Cs – Culture Compliance – may not seem difficult. After all, who doesn’t want to have fun? Compliance speaks to more than just the typical view of the concept of legalities. Compliant fun will; Integrate with your company’s culture and by-laws; and encourage everyone to participate in their own way.
First, make sure you have a good sense of the likes, dislikes, tolerances, and intolerances of the folks who make up your organization. Too many “fun” programs are really aimed at one or two people – often times those few who planned the event. Is that really fun, effective—or fair?
Second, fun needs to appeal to extroverts and introverts alike. Some employees will gladly do the limbo; others will prefer watching (and the sadists will volunteer to lower the pole). Everyone should feel comfortable enough to play along in the way that suits their tastes. Let the fun be customized to each person.
The key to success? Allow team members to define their own fun. Listen. And plan events that allow for a variety of different kinds of participation.
So let’s bring this all together. Next time your leadership is reconsidering your fun programming – and you should because it will change – make the fun consistent, on company time and compliant to culture. Then watch your culture change and your workplace fun programs become more efficient and effective.
Nat Measley, MPA, is the CEO and Managing Partner at The Fun Dept, and co-author of the recently released book Playing it Forward: The Definitive ‘How To’ Model for Creating a Winning Workplace Culture. Nat earned his MPA with a focus on Organizational Leadership from the University of Delaware. He is an experienced public speaker, facilitator and trainer who works directly with CEOs, leaders, HR professionals, and administrators to develop fun programming that supports their organizational goals.