The “Laws of Fun” at Work
While it seems contradictory, the Laws of Fun are based on years of practice and experience rather than theory. Upon analyzing thousands of fun programs at work we noticed a definite pattern from which we developed the Laws of Fun in 2013. Following these simple principals will set you up for success when planning fun programming at work.
- Leadership Buy In – Fun emanates from the top down in an organization. We sometimes refer to this as “permission to play” from leadership. Companies who embrace fun as a core value also happen to be in the top-performing companies in their class or industry. Fun breaks down hierarchical barriers in an organization and endears leadership to the employees and fosters trust. While fun can be inspired from within the organization it will not survive and thrive until top leadership embraces and participates.
- Consistency – First, let’s explore the traditional model of fun at work. Often characterized as “one and done”, the annual holiday party or summer picnic feel more obligatory than fun and the effects are fleeting. These events are often held on weekends which infringes on employees’ personal time. Finally, these events are typically very expensive and present liability issues when employees are drinking
The New Model of Fun At Work
The new model of fun at work is consistent but brief. We recommend 4-6, 20-30 minute fun engagements per year during company time. These can be virtual, live or hybrid, depending on your work environment. There may also be a special event or two per year that could require more than 20-30 minutes but they are exceptions. This new model produces measurable and sustainable results in the areas of productivity, retention, wellness, profitability and a host of other desirable outcomes.
- Brief is Better – We still get calls for 4-6 hours of team building for a special event like a conference. That long is just painful for everyone involved! After asking a few questions to determine the client’s desired outcomes, we often recommend something between 30-90 minutes(with transitions built-in) which is much more effective and considerably less expensive. If you have open time left in your agenda, send people home early and you will be a real hero!
- Compliant With Your People and Culture – Every company is different and has its unique culture. Even divisions and departments within the organization can differ in terms of their “personality”. Instead of “inflicting” fun we recommend asking employees what is fun for them and involving them in the process. We call this the Shared Experience. Ask each employee to list all the things that are fun for them and aggregate the data to find the top shared experiences. Themes such as music, cooking, family, sports, friends, and movies will emerge and become the basis for the fun programming. Employees often volunteer to help plan and organize a 20-30 minute activity based on one of their favorite fun things to do.
- All Inclusive and non Threatening – This is my favorite and often overlooked by team-building companies and company activity committees. ALL employees should be able to participate regardless of age, disability or physical prowess. Let people self-select their roles instead of assigning them. Some people may want to keep score, select the music or cheer their teammates on. Avoid highly physical activities that eliminate most of the employees from participation. Mild physical challenges and competition is fine but be sure everyone has a role they are comfortable with. Finally, never put anyone on the spot or in a potentially embarrassing situation. After 16 years and thousands of events we have never seen a case where teams did not naturally self-select their roles given the opportunity.
- Pre and Post-Game – Companies who do a good job with pre and post game report the best results. In fact, our surveys indicate that employees report that fun happens every day or once a week when in reality, it is 4-6 times per year for 20-30 minutes. Pregame can be announcements, save the date, teasers, team formulation and good old-fashioned smack talk:) Postgames can include pictures, videos, awards to memorialize the activity and fun that was had.
- Other Considerations – Music makes all the difference. We all know the feeling of walking into a room where some fun, upbeat music is playing. It sets the tone for a good time and relaxes people. Food is always a draw to get people to show up and participate. Whenever possible, get away from your workspace for an activity. Outside is best but a bright lobby, conference room or anywhere that is aesthetically pleasing.