Is this something that’s said predominantly by bosses and is complete rubbish, or would you agree that work actually is fun?
When I meet owner managers and MDs/CEOs, and we talk about their business, it’s fairly common for them to say that their business is an enjoyable place to work. ‘Fun’ is the word they use.
Hang on a minute, surely ‘fun’ is what you have when you spend quality time with family and/or friends, or are participating in your favourite sport or hobby, or being entertained at, for example, the theatre? Surely ‘fun at work’ is not a realistic concept and at best it’s a case of smoke and mirrors, to fool you into believing that the daily grind is actually something you enjoy and want to do?
I suspect that when owners/MDs tell me that their business is fun, they mean it’s fun for them and they do their best for the people they employ to make work enjoyable. Ask someone who works for you ‘do you enjoy working here?’ and they’re unlikely to say no. They’re even less likely to tell you the full truth.
But this is a serious business and we all know that a lively, pleasant, enjoyable working atmosphere is not only more productive, but it attracts people, clients and profits. However, getting it right is not something that happens by accident, and getting it wrong is an accident waiting to happen.
What not to do: ‘Have fun – that’s an order!’
Nothing can make most people’s hearts sink faster than enforced company jollity. The boss corralling everyone into so-called ‘fun’ events such as karaoke, paint-ball shooting or any competitive team-building activity, which may actually be detrimental – the stress of feeling the need to perform well for the chief, the outright competitive ‘dog-eat-dog’ attitude of some people to impress others, is going to discourage any feelings of relaxed cooperation.
Team spirit is created by colleagues who see themselves as a group of people all working for a common goal, rather than a bunch of individuals competing with each other.
Also avoid the more low-key classic of the boss taking everyone out for a drink or organising monthly social events – anything that is imposed becomes a chore to go to when people want to spend their precious hours of free time with their families, friends or on hobbies rather than hanging out with their boss.
Fun or enjoyment isn’t a medicine you can suddenly inject into people and see instant results. It’s much more about creating the culture, the environment, in which it can flourish.
What to do: culture and style
There’s a lot that can be done to make work as enjoyable as possible, whilst still remaining focused on business success and goal achievement.
Good people come to work expecting to work hard and to be rewarded appropriately. So this is not about creating a holiday camp free-for-all. The business world is serious with lots at stake, so the enjoyment and fun to be had has to be aligned with the achievement of business goals.
Fun and enjoyment is therefore not a separate element to be layered on top, it’s an integral part of work. What you’re doing is creating a culture that allows highly talented people to thrive, to love working for you, and to make a substantial contribution to your business’s success:
- Employ great people and give them real responsibility, with the freedom to get on with it in their own way. Make sure they have the tools they need to do their job well, and the training and coaching to develop to their maximum.
- Share business goals and objectives, making sure everyone knows what they have to do individually to play their part.
- Encourage team working and mutual support. Make making a mistake a learning opportunity, not a misdemeanour.
- Removal of prats. If people are getting in the way of achievement, take action to sort it out, if necessary taking them out of the equation.
- Make a big point out of recognising achievement, both individually and collectively. Reward great results.
- Treat people who work for you with great respect. They’ve chosen to work for you, they‘re sharing your goals, they’re doing their utmost to achieve, they deserve your respect.
- Allow fun and frivolity. Don’t get in the way or frown upon a bit of fun. Celebrate success, be cool.
If you’re getting all that right, then maybe it’s time also for some fun to be layered on top – but this time don’t impose your ideas, allow your team to make the decision. It could be a sport with a company team, like a fun run for a good cause. Or a work choir or cookery classes – some social fun activity open to all who want to do it.
And it doesn’t all have to be self-indulgent: it could be more worthwhile and tie in with corporate social responsibility. Lots of businesses are supporting charities such as literacy campaigns – helping a child to read in their lunch hour, or mentoring young, disadvantaged people to get into business. This is all about bringing you together through shared experiences.
So perhaps it’s not complete rubbish, it is achievable with great effect, if done well. Go-for-it! (And have fun).