How to have fun at work (and be more productive)

The modern workplace can be a strange thing to navigate. You’ve got a bunch of employees, all staring at a computer screen for the majority of the day. As a result, offices have a tendency to become lifeless places without a lot of personality or energy.

But it doesn’t have to be that way! Whether you’re a manager or an entry-level staff member, there are plenty of opportunities to inject some fun into the workplace. And don’t worry — the presence of fun does not guarantee a decrease in productivity.

If you’d like to improve corporate culture and get people excited about being at work, put the following six tips into practice.

1. Prioritize health

When someone is tired, sick, or depressed, there’s little chance they’ll bring much value to their job. Companies that want to reach the pinnacle of their industry need to take employee health seriously and prioritize it whenever possible.

Offering a strong set of insurance benefits is a good place to start, along with ample sick time and flexible work schedules. To show they’re putting their money where their mouth is, a company may want to consider offering an employment bonus that covers gym memberships. Businesses with large offices might even consider building exercise facilities onsite.

It might sound frivolous, but companies should never overlook the value of free food. The simple act of providing employees breakfast or lunch just one day a week can significantly boost company morale, and the positive feeling will likely last the rest of the day. For this one day, don’t make them eat health food. A pizza now and then won’t kill anyone.

2. Encourage flair

Cubicle life can be a bland existence. Teams and individuals find themselves segmented by high walls that emphasize boring colors and the absence of personality. Even newer startup companies that pride themselves on the creativity of an open-office plan can fall into the trap of providing each employee with the same plain, lackluster table workspace.

To make the work environment a little more fun, managers should encourage decorations and other types of flair. For example, workers might choose to show off their loyalty to a sports team or display the flag of their home country. This can be a great way to share hobbies and culture across an organization.

To take things up a notch, consider allowing employees to build personal profile websites to showcase their enthusiasm and life outside of work. These personal pages are common for tenured faculty at universities but less so on company websites.

Building these pages is quite simple nowadays thanks to easy-to-use website builder apps that integrate with online form builders. You can designate a theme and have teams compete with a basic budget to see which office area has the best flair. Gift cards or time off can make for great rewards.

3. Ditch email

Email protocols have been around since the early days of the internet, and as a result, they’re a fundamental part of almost every organization. Many executives and managers assume that email is unavoidable and therefore should be the primary form of communication within the company.

But if you’re really looking to shake things up, consider ditching email altogether or at least limiting its use within your organization. Modern chat-based tools like Slack make email seem positively old-fashioned and offer better solutions for more effective collaboration.

Company chat rooms created with these tools can actually be a source of fun and stress relief, whereas no one calls email fun. You can set up water cooler rooms on your chat service for employees to discuss TV shows, sports, and other side interests.

4. Meeting-free days

More than a few companies have fallen into the trap of endless in-person meetings. You know things are bad when you’re sitting in a meeting discussing the agenda for a different upcoming meeting. There’s got to be a better way, right?

One easy fix is to recognize that the organization will survive skipping these gatherings for a single day each week. Declare one day a week to be meeting free. Friday is a good pick because employees are likely already exhausted from the week and won’t be particularly productive in meetings.

A meeting-free day will boost morale and make other meetings more effective. Want to get really radical? Consider switching to walking meetings to bring the health element into focus.

5. Celebrate wins

The business world spends a lot of energy finding inefficiencies and correcting them. This is part of the mantra of continuous improvement. But there’s one big issue with that approach: It focuses on negatives. As a result, your organization can lose track of the good things that are likely happening.

Take time out of the work week to celebrate victories as an easy way to boost morale. Sending out positive communications through email, or a chat-based tool if you followed point three, is a good start, but it’s best if the wins can be discussed in person and rewarded with a tangible item.

After a strong month or quarter of business, treating the whole company to a dinner or social outing can help motivate employees to reach for even higher goals in the future. During one of these celebrations, recognize individual contributions so that people feel like they’re part of a winning team.

6. Work in your pajamas

There’s something to be said for having employees located in the same space. It builds a sense of culture and camaraderie, but the allure of working from home, part or full time, cannot be denied. To be blunt: Everyone likes to work in their pajamas once in a while. Technology can help with that.

Take, for example, the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant Shopify, which not only allows for but encourages remote work for many of its 3,000+ employees. Working from home, alone, can often feel isolating, as former Shopify employees have noted in the past.

However, Shopify makes remote work fun by encouraging regular, ongoing communication in Slack, “online coffee meetups,” and other various offline meeting formats adapted to a digital, distributed team. Many users have lauded Shopify’s friendly support chat, which was instrumental in delighting and retaining its early user base.

The bottom line

With one-third of our lives spent engaged in some form of organized work, it only makes sense to create the most fun and productive environment possible. It’s time to stop dreaming and start doing. Whether an employer or employee, hopefully the ideas here will inspire you to start improving your workplace.

Gary Stevens is a front end developer. He's a full time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor.

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