Ready to blow off some steam? Go to work.
Today, Wednesday, Jan. 28, is National Fun At Work Day!
The origins of this unofficial holiday are unclear, but everyone can appreciate letting loose — particularly in an environment traditionally not associated with “fun”: the workplace.
Fun times in the workplace may seem frivolous or a waste of time on the surface, but social science researchers are discovering some serious benefits to occasional silliness.
Why Fun At Work Creates Better Employees
Play is the medium that connects the brain to the hand, says Stuart Brown, psychiatrist and play researcher. His TED Talk, “Play Is More Than Just Fun,” explores the growing evidence that play is vital to brain development, intelligence and mental health.
The implication of this research for children is clear: free time for unstructured play and fun is a bedrock of healthy child development.
Adults also benefit from playtime. Fun boosts creativity and productivity in the workplace, according to Fox News “Health @ Work” writer Laurie Tarken, in her article “Work Hard, Play Harder.”
Having fun opens up new neural connections in the brain, a major boost to your creativity. Play provides an additional creative benefit, Tarken writes: an uninhibited thought process.
“When you’re fully engaged in play, you lose some of your psychological barriers and stop censoring or editing your thoughts. This allows creative ideas to flow more freely,” Tarken writes. So, the next time your team is tasked with a brainstorming session or with solving a tough problem, try playing a game first.
“Play can also lower your stress levels, boost your optimism, and increase your motivation to move up in a company and improve concentration and perseverance,” Tarken write.
For the up and coming generation, a playful workplace is not only appreciated but expected, according to “The Fundamental Role of Workplace Fun in Applicant Attraction,” a study published in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies in 2012. SHRM profiled the study soon after.
Companies shouldn’t rush to install a volleyball court or foosball table just to please their Millennial employees, the researchers concluded. Fun, in this case, comes not necessarily from a game but an attitude.
What Millennials are after is a culture of fun. SHRM’s Kathy Gurchiek explains that “for Millennials poised to enter the workforce full time, a fun work culture has more to do with coworker interactions and job responsibilities than formal activities, such as the company picnic, the researchers found.”
Playfulness should ideally be folded into daily job responsibilities. This can be “as simple as affording employees time to read about new trends and innovations in their field or industry, or trusting them to make decisions that might have immediate impact on customer satisfaction,” Gurchiek writes.
Undiluted, pure fun — the kind that on the surface seems totally unrelated to the job at hand — also has its place at work. Besides the benefits mentioned earlier of creativity and productivity, intense periods of fun can be a powerful coping mechanism for employees. Jacqueline Whitmore, Entrepreneur contributor, explains:
Don’t confuse seriousness and solemnity. Laughter is often a way for people to deal with intensely stressful situations. If your company is in the middle of a crisis and an employee cracks a joke, don’t assume they’re not taking the situation seriously.
Celebrating Fun At Work Day
The great thing about National Fun At Work Day is you can prepare as little or as much as you like. Fun has a way of bubbling to the surface whenever and wherever it feels welcome, so celebrating “Fun At Work” can be as simple as encouraging a playful environment.
Celebrating fun today could even be work-related, for instance playing a game to solve an actual problem the company is facing or a challenge with a specific job.
Or you could interpret “fun” as literally as possible, and get a pinata (pictured above) for employees to bat around.
Whatever your workplace decides on, remember that fun can’t be forced. Let employees define fun how they like: it might be a trip to a rock-climbing gym, or it could be a game they’ve made up themselves. Since creativity is such a driving force of play, the best moments of fun come organically. Welcome it!
Having fun is a great way to build trust, show appreciation and enjoy gratitude together. One-off celebrations such as Fun At Work Day are an important step toward building a healthy culture. For a comprehensive guide to growing a sustained workplace culture of happiness and appreciation, download our FREE eBook: Transform Your Workplace with Gratitude.
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