Let's Start by Goofing Off
There are times when work is, well ... a lot of work! The stress of important deadlines or goals can be overwhelming at times. Sometimes the "daily grind" can also have a sapping effect on overall productivity. How can we reverse this trend? By goofing off at work, of course! For some, this might sound counterintuitive because the institution of "hard work = success" has been a mainstay for decades. Although hard work does get the job done, the satisfaction of employees cannot be lost in the conversation. Software development can be a very mentally exhaustive profession. Developer burnout is a real topic that should not be ignored or avoided. Holistically programming is a fun and exciting profession, but some lose that spark when software development and business collide. Having fun at work can re-ignite that spark and change a person's focus and perspective.
Having fun in the workplace can take on many forms. For instance, a cheap Nerf gun such as the Jolt (only $5.99) can create hours of fun for employees. Nerf wars can become legendary while they build camaraderie. Why is that? They allow for impromptu battles where everyone can participate with no prior skill required. These events create a much needed pause within the work day to let one's brain reset. Scooters, Frisbees, and dodgeballs also encourage an environment of spontaneity. Providing a chess board, ping-pong table, Nintendo WII, online games (such as Call of Duty), or a basketball net are great team activities. These can be encouraged over lunch or after work. Additionally, setting up tournaments allows for cross department interactions and creates a healthy form of competition.
Let's not get lost in only physical activities. Social activities such as an ice cream social or a pizza party always lift spirits. Although these activities might celebrate an achieved goal, they shouldn't always be connected. The reason can be as simple as "It's Tuesday!" or "Because it's a nice day outside!" Monthly celebrations of employees' birthdays is another great reason to pause productivity. Showing support for fun activities is vital. Individuals in management positions should participate as much as possible. This can allay fears that the company does not condone these actions. Setting up a "fun committee" can further show the support for a proper work-life-fun balance. If support is difficult to find, focus on non-company sponsored activities and outings with co-workers.
Fun can even manifest itself in very small ways. Building a "wall of fame" where thank you notes, fun announcements, and personal/company accomplishments can be displayed helps people feel connected. Even the encouragement to decorate and individualize an employee's workspace can create an uplifting of spirits.
Viewing distractions as slowing productivity is unfortunate. Stopping to have fun is like a sling shot. Things slow down temporarily but accelerate must faster when people return to work. Having fun not only relieves stress but it reminds people they are valuable and important to the company and each other. Embracing fun opens new forums for creativity, discovery, and learning; furthermore, enjoying one's job is the best retention policy!