How much fun do you have at work? During a time when there is still so much economic volatility and uncertainty, and most of us know a few, or quite a few, people out of work at the moment, having fun on the job has probably fallen down the list of priorities. But several experts say it shouldn't be that way.
Dr. David Abramis is an organizational studies professor at Cal State Long Beach, and has studied the concept of fun at work for years. He's discovered that people who have fun on the job are more creative, more productive, better decision-makers, and get along better with co-workers. They also have fewer absentee, late, and sick days than people who aren't having fun. “Laughter on the job increases job performance!"
Ron Culberson is a nationally recognized expert on the benefits of humor and laughter. He is the author of Do It Well. Make It Fun.: The Key to Success in Life, Death, and Almost Everything in Between. In this interview I recently came across, he talks about his approach to success, that includes creating results as well as creating some laughs.
"Humor or fun without excellence can actually work against you because the credibility is not there. When I looked at my own success in management and leadership, I saw that if I did a good job AND was fun/funny, I was actually more effective. So, I coined the phrase 'do it well, make it fun' and now, I show people that this two-step concept can apply to just about anything.
"If I did a good job AND was fun/funny, I was actually more effective."
Culberson recognizes that layoffs and downsizings and increased productivity demands on those who remain on the job have created more seriousness in the workplace, and perhaps taken us away from fun and humor.
"But the pursuit of seriousness, ironically, also drove us away from excellence - for we were led to believe that seriousness was all that was needed to tackle this big cruel world. And that led to a lack of excellence and to a life of mediocrity, or what the bell curve refers to as average."
We have all probably heard laughter releases powerful endorphins that can lead to a heightened sense of well-being and optimism. In addition, humor and laughter can even bridge the gap between co-workers and reduce tension in a workplace that's wound tight.
Laughter releases powerful endorphins that can lead to a heightened sense of well-being and optimism.
When HR pro Fiona Macleod Butts became the director of talent at Southwest Airlines, she decided to use humor to tackle serious business issues head-on. While still new to her job back in 2006, she learned of the phenomenon then known as the "BlackBerry prayer," when employees bowed their heads to check or send messages instead of paying attention in a meeting.
"I took photographs of people who were clearly in the throes of vigorous debate and dialogue and juxtaposed them with shots of the same people sitting around a table with their heads down," she said at the time. People thought it was funny, but she said it also showed how the energy was sucked out of the room by people who weren't engaged.
A friend of mine, John Christensen, is the FISH! philosopher and CEO of a company called ChartHouse Learning. They develop programs to help organizations envision, create and sustain the culture that meets their goals. He was a documentary filmmaker who was inspired by the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, a workplace known for its incredible energy, commitment to service and humor.
"It's finding that child-like sense of wonder and curiosity, that notion of discovering and creating exctiement in another day and making sure you don't waste it in the drudgery and the mundane. Make it something better. It can be better. It's all in your approach."
What is your approach to fun in the workplace? Is the word even in your lexicon anymore? Do you think about it? Are you deliberate about creating an atmosphere and culture of fun? Or are there more important things to worry about these days?