June 23, 2010 — Coming to work is usual for most. It's part of our regular schedule. It's something we do every day, every week, every month and even every year if we're lucky. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Americans age 25-54, with children under 18, spend approximately 8.8 hours per day either working or on work-related activities. That's approximately 44 hours per week on average. It's clear we spend a lot of time at work, but the big question is; are we having fun doing it?
According to the recent AWLP & WFD report, The State of Work-Life 2010, as well as the 2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce, stress in the workplace is on the rise and it often results in increased health issues for employees, ultimately leading to increased health care cost for employers. That being said, we've all heard the old adage, "laughter is the best medicine." Well, it seems to be true. As stated in an article posted in Psychology Today, laughter "improves your job performance, especially if your work depends on creativity and solving complex problems." On top of that, researchers say "the health benefits of laughter may simply result from the social support that laughter stimulates. Given that we spend most of our time at work, and laughter is so beneficial to our performance as well as our overall health, it seems only appropriate to say that we all need to be having more fun at work."
Before you do anything, determine how much fun (or not) you are already having at work. A quiz taken from the Happiness Project Web site, and excerpted from the book "The Levity Effect," suggests the following yes or no questions:
New employees are made to feel welcome
Meetings are positive and light
We have fun activities at least once a month
It's common to hear people laughing around here
I can be myself at work
We have a lot of celebrations for special events
When brainstorming, we like to have fun
My boss is usually optimistic and smiling
Customers would call us fun to do business with
I have a friend at work who makes me laugh
We have a good time together
If you answered yes to most of them then you are in good shape. If the answer was typically no, then there's work to be done. A blog post by Tom Stern, an expert blogger for Fast Company, mentions a recent Mercer survey which reported "only 29% of employers nationwide encourage humor as part of their company culture, and only 8% have a policy of using fun to reduce employee stress." We already know that laughter and fun reduce stress. Reduced stress leads to fewer medical issues and reduced use of sick time and that typically leads to increased productivity and happier and healthier employees. To increase fun and laughter in your organization Humor-Laughter.com suggests we try a few (or all) of these:
Dress for fun: Have occasional "dress-up" and "dress-down" days, such as funniest hats, T-shirts, ties, scarfs etc.
Create a "fun" decor: Introduce "fun" into your work space and break room, such as toys, stickers, pictures, posters, etc.
Shop for "fun" items: Look for "fun" items in the kids section of department stores, special toy stores, or novelty shops. Any items that can introduce some fun to your meetings, staff interaction events, or just to make people smile.
Create a "fun" library: Set up a section of joke books, cartoon books and any other fun material.
Have staff get to know each other: Have regular functions where staff gets to know each other outside of their work roles. When you know a person better, there are more opportunities for humor in your interaction with that person.
Have "fun" contests: There are a lot of nonthreatening "fun" contests that can build rapport, camaraderie and team spirit, such as "best joke of the month," "guess who the persons in the baby pictures are," etc.
Have "fun" awards: Such as "foot in the mouth" incident of the month, or "blooper of the month" awards, etc.
Of course these are only suggestions and are to be used in the most professional of ways with an appropriate time and place, but if we're all going to be in the same place at the same time for such an extended period of time, why not make the most of it? If your organization has creative ways to ensure employees have fun all while being productive, please feel free to share your experiences.
Truer words were never spoken! For those reasons, John (of Monty Python, NearlyHeadlessNick, etc.) Cleese's training film company Video Arts has been the largest producer of non-entertainment films in the world for many decades. I've had the great honor of presenting with him and have worked with his staff to construct train-the-trainer sessions to drive home the salient points above and more. Among other advantages of humor, you can't feel afraid or resist new ideas when you are laughing. Funny situations are particularly memorable as well as non-threatening. I've been stopped in airports around the world by execs at firms where I put on fact-filled humorous sessions in The Day and they have universally confirmed how those hilarious situations have comforted and assisted them in the years since.
Others should have similar stories. Because I really can't believe I'm the funniest person here.