It has long been recognised that all work and no play is likely to lead to less productive, dissatisfied workers.
As far back as the 1930s, management researchers such as Elton Mayo and Mary Parker Follett noted that aspects of human nature, such as relationships, were important motivating factors in the workplace.
It was a radical departure from Henry Ford’s assertion that “men work for two reasons. One is for wages, and one is for fear of losing their jobs”.
Fun in the workplace can also foster more positive attitudes, help teams become more cohesive, and help people deal with or recover from stressful work experiences, while also developing stronger relationships.
That is why managers must consider how people view an activity that they may ostensibly intend to be fun before, during and after the activity.
The research has identified a range of factors that affect the way people judge events to be fun or not.
1. Make fun voluntary
The more voluntary activity, the more likely it is people will see it as fun and enjoy participating.
But that means truly voluntarily, as opposed to an activity that is technically voluntary, but where people still feel pressure to engage in some way.
2. Fun from the top
As organic fun is more effective than manufactured fun, it makes sense for managers to create an environment where employees initiate and organise various fun activities as much as possible, as opposed to managers and leaders driving it from the top down.
3. Recognise different personalities
Personality traits are important. Optimistic people with a positive approach to life are more likely to treat fun activities favourably.
Organisations that have a strong culture of fun and believe in the benefits of hiring people that fit the culture of their organisation are more likely to have employees who share fun as a common value.
Those employees are more likely to have a positive perspective on fun events.
4. Types of fun
The type of activity makes a difference. The research I’ve mentioned suggest events involving food, celebrations of personal milestones and workplace outings are best received.
Avoid events where people risk making a fool of themselves in front of their co-workers.