All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Well guess what, it might also make for a dull workplace, and you, a dull manager. I take no shame in admitting I’m writing a blog post inspired by “The Shining.” Don’t hate, just thank all the Halloween horror flix on every channel and instant viewing queues. Might be a weird source of inspiration, but a great take away to share with you.
Humans are designed for play and I think its important to incorporate elements of fun into your daily routine. First and foremost I think it allows others to get to know YOU as a real person and second I think it actually helps to improve productivity. You’ll need to help to shape and define what is appropriate in your environment and culture for your employees, but also help to provide some outlets for release and rejuvenation for your teams and employees.
In the past, whenever I heard “have fun at work,” my mind immediately went to “team building activities” — which often involve some kind of trust fall (which I always hate doing and then when I try to opt out I feel like not a being a team player) or some kind of “party” off-site. But let’s face it, off sites and trust falls take time and money which means that its not always feasible to do all the time. Even if you’re fortunate enough to do such an event once a quarter, I think it still “falls” a little short.
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Those larger off site events are still important — if you’re doing them, don’t stop. However, I’d suggest finding some other smaller events and activities to help stave off the dullness… and it doesn’t have to cost an arm or a leg. The key is to be regular and consistent.
First get a good understanding of your team and what kind of activities they enjoy and how they like to be recognized and engaged. Consider taking a quick survey of ideas from your team’s “favorite things.” Keep them on file when you need ideas or as reminders about what individuals prefer. Another cool idea — and way to engage your team — start a “fun jar” where your team can put in ideas of things that they’d like to do as a group. You’ll just need to provide a jar and a short template of requirements (i.e. budget, length of time for the activity) for their suggestions and then some guidance on how and when to pull an idea from the jar.
The “fun jar” is a great, but sometimes it may take some time to get some ideas into the jar so here are a few other ideas that I’ve come up with to help get your creative juices flowing — most are free or low cost and will work in almost any environment or workplace culture:
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Have a fun dress up day — or maybe its funny socks, hats, gloves, scarves if you have a dress code for work safety or to meet with customers. It could even be more subtle than that, for example we have a bit of an inside joke about wearing pink on Wednesdays.
Talk in funny accents (Yoda and pirate are two of my personal favs).
Plan a themed lunch pot luck.
Rally around a challenge or a cause — for example my team and I recently did a 30 day plank challenge — fitness challenges work great too.
Switch it up, hold a walking one-on- one meeting — its healthy and gets your blood moving. Can’t get walking, maybe try having a meeting outdoors — soak up the sun (and some vitamin D).
Take an afternoon coffee or tea break together.
Kick off a meeting with some fun “icebreaker” questions — to help people get to know each other better (I’m always surprised at what I learn about people, especially ones that I’ve been working with for a while)
Decorate your work area on a team theme.
Create a “secret pal” program — they can send small gifts, notes of appreciation and encouragement.
Have an art station to have folks make creations in 15 minute intervals — and for added fun — create an area to display people’s work.
I find that after a little outlet of fun to break up the monotony, not only have I started to build cohesiveness with my colleagues, but it also re-energizes me and helps me to re-focus. I’m refreshed and positive — and that my friends, spreads to others. Also, I notice it in my team and colleagues too and productivity soars.
What do you think? Do you agree or is it a little too out there? And if you agree, what are some of the ideas that you have tried to keep the office lively, fun, and upbeat?