If the thought of having any amount of fun at work sounds too good to be true, then you may be intrigued to know that for many companies having fun at work is serious business.
From holding meetings in giant ball pits to break out areas with ping-pong tables, many businesses invest time and effort into making sure their employees are happy at work. Let’s take a look at why some businesses go to such lengths to put a smile on the faces of their employees.
A changing attitude towards fun at work
Historically, work was seen as, well, work. The workplace was an environment to spend 8 hours each day and bring home a pay slip at the end of the month.
However, we are seeing an increasing trend that younger workers – millennials born from early 1980s to early 2000 – have a different opinion on what makes a company attractive to work for.
In our age of long hours, financial insecurity, raised retirement age and ‘always-on’ culture, younger workers are looking for alternative returns on their time at work. Not content with simply showing up each day at their desk, millennials view job satisfaction as more than just financial reward.
A report by the Global Wellness Institute found that, “workplace intangibles” and emotional factors have the largest impact on employee wellness, especially for millennials, who want to know, above all, that their company, managers and co-workers all care about their personal wellbeing. For this rising generation of workers, “caring” is the very heart of workplace wellness.”
4 reasons why having fun at work could be good for your business
Food for thought, then, for businesses who are faced with a multi-generational workforce. How can senior leaders, most of whom will be Baby Boomers or Generation X, manage the different expectations of Generation Y and Millennials, and ultimately, why should they even bother? Below are just a few reasons to raise a smile:
1. Fewer sick days
In a society where more days are being lost to mental ill-health and stress related symptoms than ever before, employees who report being happy at work take 10 times fewer sick days.
Studies have shown that healthier and happier staff perform better, stay in their business longer and reduce costs and risks for organisations.
2. More productive
Contrary to what management may fear, happy employees experience higher productivity. A study by Warwick University revealed that happier employees are more productive by an average of 12% and, in some cases, up to 20%.
3. Improved cognitive ability and social skills
Remember those games you used to play as a child? We actively encourage children to get involved with imaginative play because it forms a vital part of mental and social development. Yet, when was the last time you took the time out to play a game or solve a puzzle with others as an adult?
Creative problem solving, fun and a light-hearted atmosphere improve communications within and between teams, foster collaboration, innovation and decision making.
4. Improve workplace culture
We make a lot of effort to show our customers the personality behind our brand, yet we often overlook how this translates through to our teams. Personalising your value system with actions to back-up your brand promise is incredibly powerful. If employees can see you living and breathing the things that matter to the organisation, they are more likely to embody these attributes themselves.
Asking millennials to list their top five workplace drivers of wellness, “feeling my work has positive impact on people’s lives” comes a close second to working for a company “that cares for my personal wellness”. Businesses who can show they are committed to providing a healthy, thriving environment will help attract dedicated and compatible future employees.
Companies that encourage their employees to have fun
With its head office in Huntington, Anglian Water supply water and water recycling services to more than six million domestic and business customers in the east of England and Hartlepool. They have won Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work Award in 2019 and came second in 2018. An impressive 89% of employees say they would recommend Anglian Water to a friend as an excellent place to work.
They offer wellbeing programmes to keep employees fit and healthy, encourage volunteering, hold employee recognition awards, discounted entry to water parks and employees have access to speak with trained wellbeing professionals at any time of the day.
Table foosball, ping-pong, Xbox and nap pods; these are just some of the features at Expedia’s quirky London based office. According to employees, they are not expected to be “chained to their desks for 10 hours a day” and are encouraged to step away and get some downtime if they need it.
Imagination, fun and creativity is encouraged everywhere. In Lego’s London office, bowls of bricks feature on most tables and employees are activity encouraged to play with Lego during meetings. The office is designed to increase collaboration between employees from all communities with no fixed desks for employees and managers.
Once a year, the entire company holds a worldwide Play Day where all LEGO employees are given the time to experience the power of play together.
The Welsh insurance firm, which employs more than 6,000 people, has regularly featured in The Sunday Times list of the 30 Best Big Companies to Work For – even making it to the number two spot.
The Sunday Times said: “Fun is taken seriously at Admiral Group, with an annual budget of £110 per head to try new things outside the office from circus skills to sheep-herding. The result is a happy flock.”
Employees rated the company highly on building a strong sense of family (80%), inspiring leadership (80%) and being run on sound moral principles (82%).
Can we have too much of a good thing?
Surely cultivating culture of happiness is not as easy as stringing up a few hammocks and handing out some free beers on a Friday afternoon? Plus for some, the thought of enforced joviality with colleagues is enough to send shivers down the spine.
Just as people react differently to stressors at work and at home, a person’s personality plays a big part in how comfortable they feel with workplace fun and games. Plus, the balance of professionalism and playfulness needs to be carefully considered to reflect the diversity of a modern workforce.
Before spending money on Xboxes and sleeping pods, businesses need to be aware that an organisation that values its people, gives praise and reward and provides them with a work-life balance is far more likely to achieve a well-being culture than one that relies on gimmicks.
Is it time to have more fun?
For organisations to thrive rather than merely survive in this era of evolving employee expectations and increasing competition, they should embrace fun to create a positive climate that improves the employee experience.
As we can see by the above examples, many organisations are proactively embedding a culture of fun at work in anticipation of changing employee demands.
Talk to me about the ways we can add spark to your organisation. You may be surprised at how easily it can be done and the changes you will notice at a cultural level.
Over to you! What are your thoughts about having fun at work?
Should employers be doing more to ensure we enjoy our work and office environment, or do you feel that it distracts from getting work done?
Are you encouraged to take time out of your day for fun? Do you see any benefits?