There are frequent themes that crop up when people come to me looking to create a change in their career.

Wanting greater flexibility and to do something that they really connect with tend to be the top ones, but as we explore a little further, another theme repeatedly emerges.

It’s one that is raised in a slightly tentative voice, the thing they almost don’t mention, yet as soon as they do, realise just how important it is to them:  “I’d like to have more fun at work”.

In my experience, the phrases ‘having fun’ and ‘at work’ are not used together often enough, and my clients seem to reflect this.  It’s as if it is a silly expectation or something that is considered unimportant or inappropriate.  Yet not having any opportunity for fun within your work can be hugely de-motivating, and if someone feels this way year after year, is it any wonder that they start looking for a change?

This theme is naturally a big concern for these individuals, but it is also one for the people and organisations they work for.

There is evidence that shows how having fun and experiencing positive emotions at work has a lengthy list of benefits…….here goes:  it increases people’s happiness, helps to protect them against stress, enables higher productivity, promotes exploration, enhances creativity, supports learning and builds individuals engagement and company loyalty.

Phew….and hurrah, fun at work is good for people and for business.

If you were in any doubt about what fun has to do with it – say it out loud – EVERYTHING!

So what does fun at work mean and who is responsible for creating it?

For people to feel able to have fun at work, they first need to feel they are allowed to do so without fear of reprimand.  They need to feel that it is possible to be both professional and playful at the same time and to see it role modelled successfully, actively encouraged by senior leaders.

Employees are responsible for making the fun happen, but leaders need to create and facilitate a culture of ‘play’ in order to enable it.  The idea that great work can be achieved whilst also having some fun needs to ripple through the whole organisation.

So take a moment now to reflect; if you are a senior leader, try asking yourself this: 

How are you currently giving permission for fun at work?  What could you do more of to demonstrate this?

Having fun of course means different things for different people and is driven by many variables including age, gender, personality and individual interests.  In a recent survey and report “It Pays to Play” by Bright HR, the following were recognised as key enables for experiencing positive emotions at work:

  • doing work-related tasks that are interesting and fulfilling
  • having a physical environment that feels fun and relaxed
  • celebrating success and colleagues’ special occasions
  • non-work activities such as games or social events provided by the company.

However, the thing that most people said is the highest enabler is “having great colleagues who I enjoy spending time with”.  

There are a number of things that help us develop these positive working relationships, ranging from having a shared work purpose or common goals to getting involved in activities or social events such as fundraising days, bake-off competitions, an office choir, fantasy football league or even having an office pet.

All these things can help people to bond and gain a sense of belonging, but it is often the more informal activities and interactions that are truly central to our fun at work.   It is in the way we choose to communicate and connect, the way we demonstrate respect and trust and how we value each other’s individuality.  Enjoying working together involves sharing something of ourselves, it includes ‘office banter’, being able to laugh together and our ability to really listen and give others our time.

As well as creating good times at work, the support of trusted colleagues can also help us to remain resilient during the more challenging times.  Just think of the last time you turned to someone at work when you were ready to scream with frustration, knowing that talking with them would help you to manage it in a better way.

Whether you are a leader, an employee, a remote worker or self-employed, consider how you want to feel at work, and if you would like to have more fun, take a moment to ask yourself:

What action could you take to build relationships or create more positive informal opportunities with your colleagues or network?  Sometimes just taking the time to ask someone about themselves can make all the difference to your working day – and to theirs.

If this resonates with you, encourage yourself and others to value this theme and see having fun at work as something worthwhile and important in all our working lives.

And if you are currently head in hands or rocking with despair, recognising that fun does not feature at all in your working reality and feel ready to do something about it, please get in touch – coaching can help.