Why Leaders Must Consider Fun as Part of Their Job

Having fun at work has many benefits, including increased engagement and productivity. And as a leader, it is your responsibility to ensure that they both co-exist. Here are a few tips to inject fun and play into your team and organization!

Work and fun.

Maybe you haven’t ever thought about those two words in the same sentence. There are certainly people who don’t equate those two ideas together, or while they wish it could be true to have fun at work, they’ve never really experienced it.

My premise is that work can be fun, at least some of the time and it should be that way.

This isn’t some new-age, fluffy, feel-good concept. There are real business reasons why this is true, including:

  • When people have fun, they are more engaged. While there is more to employee engagement than having a good time at work, aren’t you more engaged in anything if it is enjoyable?
  • When people are having fun, they are less stressed. Stress causes a myriad of problems for people and organizations, including impaired decision-making, more on the job accidents and injuries, other health problems, increased time off, and poorer communication.
  • When people are having fun, turnover is reduced. Look at the opposite of this. If you are in a job that brings you no joy, are you more likely looking for something else?
  • When people are having fun, they are more productive. This may seem like a paradox – if we are “having fun” we might not be working, but the truth is two-fold – some down time refreshes and rejuvenates us. Work and fun don’t have to be two separate activities; if we are having fun while we work, our energy and motivation is higher and we will get more done.

Even if you are still questioning my premise, just think about your personal experience. When you have some fun in your day, are you more energized, focused, willing and able to get more done?

So hopefully now you understand and agree with my premise. Where does that leave us as leaders?

As leaders we have a responsibility to lower turnover, reduce injuries, accidents, and stress, and increase employee engagement and productivity, right?

So that means part of our job is to find ways to insert and increase the enjoyment and fun people have at work. While anyone can find ways to do this for themselves, regardless of their job title or role (think two people taking orders at a fast food restaurant – one happy the other dour – remember they are doing the same job in the same company and location), as leaders, we have an opportunity to create those opportunities for others.

Here are four concrete ways you can do that:

Model it. Do you have fun at work? If so, is it obvious.  Or do you keep it to yourself? If it’s obvious, great – don’t make it a secret. If you don’t find any joy in at least some of your work, you need to look harder, or look elsewhere to benefit yourself and your team.

Look for it. 

As you watch the work of your team and as you pay attention to the attitudes of your team members, notice the enjoyment and fun. Help people see what you see, and help them recognize that there is some joy in their work!

Promote it. 

When you see it, let people know it is a good thing and that you want them to continue to inject some fun and laughter into the work. Give people the space to play a bit, and allow some playful and fun banter or conversation rather than expecting “all business.”

Create it. 

Look for ways to put more fun into the work – that could mean a planned outing or event, or any of 100 things. Most important is that it is something viewed as fun by others (just because you love golf, doesn’t mean everyone else does . . .) and not mandated fun (“OK team, now we are going to have fun.”)

Perhaps the best way to do this is to ask for volunteers to be on a fun committee that creates occasional and appropriate activities to inject life, enjoyment, and fun into the work.

Fun and work.

It isn’t oil and water – they can mix and create something even better than standing alone. And while an individual can create that for themselves, it takes leaders to create a culture where they can successfully co-exist.

I hope you will be one of those leaders.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting, and speaking services.

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