In a society where corporate efficiency is king, letting loose and being playful in the workplace has become taboo. Organizational cultures of commitment, contribution and professional excellence have become commonplace, with focus placed on raising productivity and increasing the bottom line. It is as though success and fun are viewed as mutually exclusive terms – “if we allow our employees to have fun, they won’t do any work”. So employees push themselves to achieve this professional excellence, working longer hours and facing the looming threat of burnout.
It seems to have been forgotten that the workplace is not run by systems, but by people. People who are creative, intelligent and inventive. Allowing for this creativity to flow in a directed manner not only ensures that work gets done, but it does so in a less stressful, more creative and efficient manner.
Having fun at work makes for very happy employees – something I can attest to working at Intranet Connections. The foosball table in the staff lounge, dogs roaming throughout the office, our collaborative chalk wall and cold beers in the fridge for Friday afternoons contribute to the fun, creative and collaborative environment I’ve fallen head over heels for.
The best part? Fun does not have to come at the expense of productivity. Companies such as LinkedIN, Zynga and Google have all embraced this fun organizational culture and found a variety of benefits in doing so. Not only has it been shown that a fun organizational culture does not reduce overall productivity, but actually that the opposite is true. Companies that embrace this type of culture actually have increased employee engagement, higher employee retention rates, greater creativity, productivity and even higher profits.
One of my favorite Ted Talks “Tim Brown: Tales of Creativity and Play” gives examples of a variety of companies who promote fun through playful environments and have found success in doing so. IDEO offers a micro bus meeting room for its employees, Pixar’s animators work in wooden huts and decorated caves, Google has beach volleyball courts, a slide, a fireman’s pole and a massive T-Rex skeleton decorated in pink flamingos.
OK, so you aren’t ready for pink flamingos. There are lots of other ways to promote a fun organizational culture in more moderate ways than installing a metal slide in the staff room. For example, at Intranet Connections we recently had a baby pool for our Marketing Maven, Erica Hakonson (who wasn’t sure if she was having a boy or a girl and therefore we referred to the baby as “mango”), and posted our guesses for gender and weight up on our chalk wall. We use our chalk wall to visually display fun events going on in the company, and for collaborative efforts on various projects. Visualizing content has proven to be quite effective, and writing/drawing on walls isn’t something that gets less fun with age.
We also make great use of our own internal social intranet to promote a fun organizational culture. Here are just a few examples of ways Intranet Connections has used our social intranet to increase employee engagement and strengthen our culture:
While we may not all bust out the fireman’s pole and turn into a Google-type organizational culture workplace overnight, making a reasonable effort to promote a sense of fun in the workplace, and through your social intranet can go a long way, and maybe even raise your bottom line.
How does your organization strike the balance between work and play? Please let us know by leaving your comments below. For more fun intranet ideas check out our 101 Intranet Ideas eBook.