It’s no secret that I’m interested in the role of “fun” – fun at work, fun at home, fun in life – not just because fun is, well, FUN! but because I strongly believe it has a real impact on how people work, live and interact.
One timely example comes from the National Family Literacy Day event I alluded to in yesterday’s blog post. Our Literacy Unit at RPL arranged for a flash mob to happen where patrons and staff could do the “hokey pokey” to celebrate this year’s theme of “Play for Literacy”.
A co-worker made a really good point later in the day. Staff do the every day work of the library – checking books in and out, working on projects or whatever. But it’s stuff like a fun, one-off silly flash mob which finds you dancing in a circle with your co-workers and having a ball – that will not only put an extra bounce in participant’s steps for the day but provide long-lasting happy memories of their time at the library as well – as they continue to work there and even after they move on or retire.
This isn’t just anecdotal though. Although there was apparently a belief in the past that there was little or no connection between staff happiness and productivity, more recent studies are increasingly showing that there is a strong correlation between things like (although you can always find a study to defend any point of view!):
- Workplace happiness and positive perceptions of customer service – “Recent analyses of Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For,” suggest that a ‘fun work environment’ is one of the factors distinguishing superior performers from others (Chan, Gee & Steiner, 2000; Joyce, 2003
- Workplace happiness and employee engagement – “Other research studies show that happiness can undo some of the adverse physiological effects of negative emotions. Seligman points out that happier people are more altruistic than their unhappy counterparts, being more likely to give not just their money, but also their time and energy.”
- Workplace happiness and productivity: a scientific test – ““Happiness economics” should not be just about whether macro-variables raise or lower well-being, we also need to look to the micro-level impact of happiness on behaviour. So far we know that happier individuals are more productive, the effect coming largely through increased effort, whether we consider a short-run shock induced in a laboratory or longer-run real-life shocks.”
Beyond the research in academic articles as well as the many business books (including one written by the founder one of the fastest growing companies of the past ten years), blogs and other media, I think there’s a large dose of common sense to believing in fun as well.
It doesn’t take a very sophisticated thought experiment to think “Hmm, at jobs where I’ve been unhappy, how productive have I been and how does that compare to other jobs where I’ve been happy?”
In my case, it’s not just a thought experiment. I saw it first hand as I happened to work for the same employer on two different occasions. During my first tenure with the Saskatchewan Publishers Group, I was extremely happy for a wide number of reasons – I’d found work in my field, it was my first “real” job after University, I had an awesome, understanding boss whose management philosophy matched my own beliefs.
But when I returned to the SPG after a few years in Alberta, it was the same organization with basically the same people but I was as unhappy as I’ve ever been in any job (and this coming from a guy who once worked at a garbage dump in high school!) I was assigned different work that wasn’t a good fit for my skills, the organization was going through a series of massive challenges including financial ones.
Fun is important in everything and here’s a little video that captures just how vital it can be. (H/T to AF on FB for the link)