Open Thread: How Much Fun Do You Have At Work?

2009 August 6

Having a laugh @ VG12A
Creative Commons License photo credit: Jacob Bøtter

Recently I stumbled across an older article at about cultural transformation within a company through fun and laughter:

We’re a company—maybe like yours—where having fun was long viewed with suspicion. Sure, a lot of start-ups and Silicon Valley companies have wild and crazy cultures, with pillow fights around the foosball table the order of the day. But ours is a traditional, Midwestern manufacturing company, one that didn’t even allow employees to have coffee at their desks until 1989. Although we pride ourselves on our technological innovation, we make industrial signs and other identification products, not PalmPilots or rainbow-colored iMacs. We are an old-line company that has always taken business very seriously—again, maybe like yours.

So perhaps it comes as a surprise that, for the past seven years, we’ve made fun an integral part of the culture at Brady Corporation—not simply as an end in itself but for serious business reasons. We’ve found that getting people to loosen up and enjoy themselves has numerous benefits. It can break down jealously guarded turf boundaries. It can foster an esprit de corps throughout the company and greater camaraderie on teams. It can start the conversations that spark innovation and increase the likelihood that unpleasant tasks will be accomplished. It can help convey important corporate messages to employees in memorable ways. It can relieve stress—and, heaven knows, we can all benefit from that.

And it made me want to ask you, our readers about your work environment: is your company environment fun? Do you laugh a lot at work? Is fun encouraged, or are you sneaking laughs with coworkers behind the bosses’ backs?

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8 Responses leave one →
  1. 2009 August 6

    It’s funny that you mention this, because I just noticed this morning that I’ve been laughing more at work lately. I also have some new responsibilities and roles that have been challenging me. Coincidence? Probably not.

  2. 2009 August 6

    I’ve worked for startups with three people, on my own from home, and huge corporations with 15K employees, but have always been lucky enough that fun was part of all cultures. Right this minute I’m back in the startup game, doing marketing for a solar manufacturer, and working out of a modest industrial park in Nashville. We’re lean on funds but full of fun. If you can’t have fun at work, it’s not worth it.

  3. 2009 August 6

    I think this is one of the reasons we need to get coworking off the ground in Nashville. Even freelancers and the remote workers need to have a little fun and it is easier to have fun with other people.

  4. 2009 August 6

    I worked for 5 years in an office environment with really fun people. Laughter was an integral part of the culture. And it also helped that at 4:30 on Thursday champagne bottles popped and we had a weekly social pow wow with an eclectic mix of customers and friends drop by to socialize.

    The company folded 5 years ago, and I found myself working freelance from home. But luckily I have emails come in, and chat platforms to “socialize” during the day while working to maintain a sense of community – and to reach out to pow wow with other people in similar solitary freelance situations.

    The greatest advice I ever got in my economics class in college was this: “work is for fun, investing is how you make money” — not so true today in a wonky economy/market, but the maxim that work should be fun still holds true.

  5. 2009 August 6

    Great responses so far!

    @Rachel – Totally agree that there’s probably a relationship between being intellectually engaged and finding enjoyment in your work environment. Hope that continues for you.

    @Jackson – Agreed. I’m in the same boat, as a remote worker. Would love to have a fun but productive environment to work in around other people. Home is great most of the time, but there’s definitely something about having a fun group of coworkers (and even the occasionally annoying one or two) that keeps work interesting.

  6. 2009 August 6

    Oh, do we ever have fun! I own a company with my brother and a good friend and our dog is our mascot. We are creative (ok, they are) and try to be as witty as possible the entire day. I normally end up losing very early on. I love being a business owner and sometimes can’t believe I get to do this for a living!

  7. 2009 August 6

    I guess Twitter and Facebook are back up, but, oddly, the word “fun” has been on my mind lately, too.

    Great topic.

    I was just thinking the other day about the motto of the yacht-charter business I had in Hawaii in the 80s. One of our boats was an “ultralight” (seriously –constructed of fiberglass and balsa wood!) down-wind racer called a Santa Cruz 50; the manufacturer’s motto was “Fast is Fun.” I put that on the front of our t-shirts, and on the back, “….and fun is the only thing we can get serious about.”

    And that was pretty much the premise of the business. Of course, our job was taking people sailing and snorkeling in one of the most beautiful places in the world. True, it was not nearly as glamorous as it can easily be made to sound, but it wasn’t exactly an office-and-cubicle, keyboard-and-screens all day proposition, either.

    I think “fun” is one of the great intangibles in our lives. It’s possibly one of the strongest motivators we live with, but it doesn’t show up anywhere in the hierarchy of needs. Let’s see: food, clothing, shelter, sex… and fun? Yo, Maslow, I think you missed one.

    What I wonder, though, is “what exactly do we mean by ‘fun’ “? Do we even know what “fun” is? Or is it like love and obscenity, “we know it when we see it.” Too often, “fun” is determined in the past tense; what exactly do we mean when we say, “that was fun…” ?

    I do think that, somehow, what we do with our lives all day, every day, should be at least partly motivated by a “fun” factor. But then I recall a scene in “The Wonder Years,” where Kevin’s father has made him take a job.

    Kevin protests, “it’s not fun.”

    “Of course it isn’t,” his father says, “that’s why it’s work.”

    Anytime you can get the two to NOT be mutual exclusive, you’ve accomplished something noteworthy — and your life is better for it.

  8. 2009 August 6
    Steph permalink

    Lucky for me, I work in the entertainment industry which is (generally) populated with creative, off-the-wall types. That definitely lays a foundation of fun. The main offices of our company are lively and each individuals office is bursting with their own personality. There’s beer in the fridge, a collection of rubber duckies in one office, candy machines and a lack of passive-agressive notes in the office kitchen.

    With what we do, we have quite a few events that that HAVE TO BE FUN–so that our clients are having fun and therefore love us more. :-) One of the best parts of the culture of our small division of a HUGE company is that we truly function and feel like a family. We may get frustrated with one another occassionally, but in the end, we know that each person is integral to the ultimate mission. Our little division has more 10 year+ employees than any of our competitors around Nashville and I think it speaks very highly of our culture and the way we work together and how we regard each other. We are a family. It’s hard to get in, but it’s also hard to get out. :-) Well, unless you *really* screw up.

    A few months ago, I was transferred to another market and began working out of my home. My bosses are still in Nashville and I communicate with the Nashville office on an hourly basis. I miss the comraderie in the Nashville office and I miss the bouncing of ideas and laughing with each other, but we do as much of that as we can over the phone. I feel truly blessed to be doing what I do with the people with whom I work!!

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