Fine Line Between Fun Corporate Culture and Wasting Time

The trend seemed to get its start during the dot com boom of the 1990s. Hip, fledgling technology companies took an approach to motivating employees that would have never been considered just a generation before. There were pool tables in the conference room, beer in the refrigerator, and ice cream sundae bars every afternoon. It was all part of creating a fun corporate culture that would entice talented young workers not only to remain with the company, but to stay fresh and creative. Much of Corporate America turned up their noses at the practice, but as start-ups like Google and Yahoo grew into multi-billion dollar powerhouses, even the stuffiest of businessmen sat up and took notice.

These days, a “fun workplace” isn’t so unusual anymore. Ask the likes of Zappos, Southwest Airlines, or Patagonia, and they will tell you the practice plays a significant role in helping keep employees happy. And happy employees stick around, reducing costs of recruiting, hiring and onboarding. Workplace fun also creates the kind of culture in which employees feel driven to do their best work. That positive feeling will extend beyond the workplace, as employees also feel driven to promote the great qualities of their employer to anyone that will listen, including potential future employees and customers. Talk about return on investment!

There will always be nay-sayers who believe that a fun workplace atmosphere leads to employees wasting their time. After all, people should be working at work, not having fun, they argue. When allowed to take a few minutes out of their busy day to laugh, play, or engage in some other stress-busting activity, employees will return to the job refreshed, recharged, and ready to perform. Besides, not all aspects of a fun corporate culture actually take place in the workplace. Many companies sponsor after-hours fun activities, like trips to a baseball game, concert, or bowling alley. Employees and their spouses/partners can gather at a local restaurant to enjoy some fun and fellowship. And quirky activities like trapeze lessons will prove more effective than many sanctioned corporate team-building courses, as workers learn to appreciate their strengths and weaknesses and to laugh at themselves and each other.

The bottom line is that a fun atmosphere boosts productivity and morale and leads to a more committed workforce. Even if a major “fun culture” initiative isn’t possible for your company, you can start small by rewarding team members with pizza or root beer floats for meeting a pre-determined goal. You may also wish to consider sponsoring a fun outing, like bowling or paintball, to help employees see each other – and your company – in a different light.

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