It used to be called "loafing," and now it’s called "replenishing." It used to be called "goofing around," and now it’s called "de-stressing." How can a business be productive if everyone’s "playing around?" In fact, research has shown that a fun workplace is connected to greater motivation, more useful and effective ideas, and higher performance. Here are some strategies for creating a high-energy and fun environment in your business:
1. Bring in toys (yes, you read that right). Walk inside some of the world’s most innovative product design firms, and you will see toys, props (including "childish" writing instruments such as crayons and markers), and many sorts of objects that encourage play. When people play, they have a good time, and that leads to an atmosphere where more ideas emerge and are shared. I know of one business that put a new membership program in place to encourage more frequent buying—just from observing a yo-yo.
2. Consider sponsoring friendly competitions. For example, invite employees to submit a name for a new product or service you are developing or an idea for a customer service program or employee recognition award. It generates buzz and interest, and most important, helps you and your staff think about the experience your business is creating for customers.
3. Liven up your meetings. In addition to the props mentioned earlier, start a meeting off by asking people to share an embarrassing or funny work experience they had in a previous job, who their favorite comedian is, or what their worst vacation experience was. In addition to helping people relate to one another, starting a meeting this way lightens the mood (something we need when we’re about to tackle a serious business issue) and helps bring energy into the room.
Humor and fun are necessary building blocks for an innovative, productive business. So go on out and make ‘em laugh.
Lisa Gundry Professor of Management Director, The Center for Creativity & Innovation DePaul University