Fun can be the ticket out of workplace angst

Managers are worried about accountability and employees are wondering if they will have a job next year

David FullerLife seems very serious at the moment. Everywhere we turn, people are challenged with discouraging news about health, the economy, job losses, rising home prices and inflation. Add in mental illness and a raft of other concerns that sometimes seem contrived to keep us worried, scared and paralyzed.

This seriousness has pervaded our workplaces, homes and communities. No longer are we able to gather to share funny stories about what happened on the weekend, play jokes on one another, or give each other a friendly poke on the shoulder or a hug.

We’re all so solemn about facing some pending doom that business seems a chore, and we’re scratching for every dollar as if it were the last one we would ever see. Although the promotors of cryptocurrency would like to see that, the likelihood of this happening in the next couple of years is remote. You will still be able to get some of those dollars you’re chasing.

Watch any sports team and see what happens when everyone is tense. Shots and passes are too hard and fast, tempers flare, and teamwork breaks down. Often in a team huddle, the coach will try to encourage players by yelling, “Let’s have fun out there!” Coaches know that when players are having fun, they perform better.

So what do we need to do to have more fun?

While there are those among us who seem to believe that ‘fun’ is a four-letter word that should be banned from workplaces worldwide, it’s actually only a three-letter word.

Without fun, there would be no fundamentals of business, no serious functions, no fundraising and definitely no funfairs.

In fact, for some of the more serious business types, work is more like a funeral with lots of tears, sorrow and anguish.

But wait! Even a funeral starts with fun and the remembrance of fun times.

Recently I posted up on social media my result for a five-km run using the Nike App on my phone. As it turns out, one hour and 13 minutes isn’t all that good for five km. I was heckled by my friends and even strangers for my mediocre effort. One so-called friend even suggested that perhaps I had walked backwards!

When I shared my efforts in a video with some of my groups and mentioned that I probably needed to give up eating trail mix and compared myself to the Fizzy Drink guy on Tik Tok, the response was equally insulting.

If I took the abuse personally, I might be offended and crawl into a hole or under my bed. But where would be the fun in that?

As we’re all drinking from the watercooler of corporate welfare in semi-socialist states, we need to find ways to make work more enjoyable. Our lives are stressed as we navigate Zoom meetings and phone calls where managers are worried about accountability and employees wonder if they will have a job next year.

Leaders can reduce stress and support better outcomes when we focus on having fun with our challenges instead of concentrating solely on monetary or measurable long-term outcomes that continue to put pressure on our teams.

While having fun might seem counterintuitive to some leaders, the outcomes speak for themselves. Numerous articles and studies show that the outcomes are better when we’re enjoying our work. We can have fun in our organizations by interrupting monotonous tasks, making meetings more interactive and shorter, asking our employees what they find enjoyment in, sincerely showing interest in our people, all the while using humour as a means of engagement.

In his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni talks about the fact that a team that lacks trust and intimacy is destined for failure. What better way of creating intimacy than laughing at one another?

While working with a team just last week, I asked them, starting with the leader, to share a time when they did something embarrassing. The result was 15 minutes of hilarious conversation that revolved around swapping entertaining stories. The meeting that followed was light-hearted and very productive.

The team leader got back to me within an hour of the meeting to express how important that meeting was for them and how enjoyable it had been.

We can be caught up in the seriousness of our daily lives, or we can laugh a little at our stumbles and turn our work into enjoyment. The proven result is that fun enhances performance and, with much less effort, we will get better results.

Why not try injecting some fun into your functions this week and progressing from fearfests to funfests?

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner in the firm Pivotleader Inc. For interview requests, click here. Not having fun yet? Email dave@pivotleader.com

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