Fun at work

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Dean is next door, working like a farm animal. He’s not getting paid. The house belongs to his daughter and son-in-law, so it’s not even his house. But when I asked him if he was having fun, he said, “You bet!” with a big wide grin.

Most of the talk about fun at work is about programs and games and badges and balloons and assorted BS. But when you talk to people who say that they have fun at work (and I’ve talked to a lot of them) that’s not what they’re talking about.

All those badges and games and reward points are kid fun or mandatory fun. Real fun at work is grown-up fun. Grown-up fun at work usually looks like this.

The work makes a difference

People want to know that they’re not just going through the motions. Dean knows that what he’s doing will help his daughter and son-in-law. In other situations people know how what they’re doing contributes to the team or the company or the world at large. If you’re the boss, part of your job is to tell them how their work makes a difference.

People enjoy the work

Some people, like me, get to do something for work that they love. Other people enjoy mastering a difficult task or responding to changing circumstances. If you’re the boss, try to arrange things so people get to do more of the things they love and are good at.

People make progress

At the end of the day, people like to know that they’ve made some progress. Perhaps they’ve moved a project along. Maybe they can point to a stack of finished work. If you’re the boss, part of your job is helping people make and recognize progress. Part of that is setting clear expectations and giving people feedback on how they’re doing.

People have control over the work

People want as much control as possible over their work life. If you’re the boss, the more you can give people the freedom to make decisions about their work and the freedom to take their own initiative, the more they’re likely to have fun working.

People work with folks they get along with

We are social beings. People want to work with people they get along with and who contribute. If you’re the boss, part of your job is to keep the team as free as possible of slackers, me-firsters, bad attitudes.

Boss’s Bottom Line

If you’re a boss, you can influence everything here. It’s your job to make work grown-up fun.

More on Fun at Work

From Derek Irvine: We Need Praise, Not Games

“Positive comments from multiple sources are key to developing a culture in which all feedback is welcome, but don’t poison employee recognition with gamification.”

From Dan McCarthy: Don’t Force Your Employees to Have “Fun” at Work

“I’m all for creating and maintaining a work environment where people can feel like winners, have a high degree of autonomy, and enjoy the people they work with. Coming to work should not feel like going to the dentist to get a root canal. Work should be challenging, engaging, energizing, and maybe even enjoyable (at least more often than not). But should work be ‘fun?'”

From Cliff Oxford: Making Work Fun Is Not About Table Tennis and Paintball

“You know something that is often overlooked in business? Having fun at work. No, I am not talking about the make-believe fun of team-building exercises and paintball scrimmages and company picnics. Most of that is a waste of time. I’m talking about making the actual work fun so people take pleasure in doing it.”

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