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Unleashing the Power of Play: How Having Fun at Work Boosts Morale

January 29, 2024

Why Should You Prioritize Having Fun At Work?

For some people, having fun at work sounds like an oxymoron. But for people who love their jobs and work at many of the leading businesses across the globe, it's a reality.

Research has proven that fun at work isn't frivolous. It's necessary if you want engaged employees who lead your organization toward success.

There are many benefits to having fun at work. Let's dive into a few.

Boosts Creativity

Studies show there is a strong correlation between having fun at work and creative behavior from employees.

Some events, like team-building exercises or puzzle-type activities, can help inspire creativity and encourage the development of new ideas. They invite employees to think critically and imaginatively.

Having fun prevents a stagnant work environment. It breaks people out of the fixed routine monotony that can result in bored employees and stale ideas.

Finally, having fun at work encourages an overall creative culture. When employees know that inventive problem-solving and risk-taking are valued within the workplace, they're more likely to look for innovative solutions that fall outside of standard practice.


Fosters Team Building

Team building is crucial to building friendships at work. In the United States, only two in 10 employees would say that they have a best friend at work, but research from Gallup emphasizes the importance of having a close friendship with a coworker.

Employees who are best friends with a colleague are twice as satisfied with their job and 23% more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work than someone who doesn't have a best friend at work.


Enhances Communication

Having fun at work helps break down communication barriers and encourage open dialogue. When a team engages in games and activities that are separate from their work tasks, they feel more comfortable with one another. This familiarity sets the stage for honest conversations that may otherwise be avoided.

Activities that involve all members of a team or organization are also effective at removing communication barriers between people at different levels in the company. 58% of people say they trust strangers more than their own boss.

Volunteering together or attending a corporate retreat fosters a sense of togetherness and reminds employees that everyone is on the same team. By removing the formal separation created by rigid hierarchies, employees can feel more comfortable participating in open communication with those in leadership positions.


Improves Productivity

It may sound counterintuitive, but carving out time for fun activities can help boost productivity.

It's not just a gut hunch, either-- research has shown it to be true. In one study, participants were either shown 10 minutes of comedy videos or provided a snack. After the break, they were assigned various tasks and had their productivity tracked. For people who had confirmed they were made happy, productivity increased by an average of 12%. In some instances, productivity increased by as much as 20%.

You may feel like you're sacrificing work time for fun, but the truth is that few-- if any-- employees are productive for the entire standard 8-hour work day.

The average person is productive for just 2 hours and 53 minutes a day when they're in the office. The rest of the day is often spent on other activities like reading the news, checking social media, chatting with a team member, and preparing food.

When you make time for fun, employees are still going to produce the same amount and quality of work, but those more unproductive hours are going to be devoted to activities that encourage collaboration and increase employee satisfaction.


Increases Job Satisfaction and Employee Retention

People who love where they work rarely want to leave. In fact, employees who enjoy their work are 40% less likely to look for a different job.

Fun activities that promote team bonding also provide a sense of camaraderie among staff members. Encouraging a strong, positive relationship with coworkers can go a long way in having happy employees.


Attracts Top Talent

60% of 2015 graduates shared that they would prefer to work somewhere that has a positive social environment, even if the tradeoff was a lower paycheck.

A business known for its positive company culture is more likely to attract top talent who value a fun work environment. In addition, you'll end up with new employees who share your company values and easily integrate into the company.


Reduces Stress

Engaging in games and other fun activities is proven to have stress-relieving effects.

Laughter stimulates circulation and supports muscle relaxation. It causes your heart rate and blood pressure to increase and then decrease. Having fun doesn't just mentally reduce stress, it also helps mitigate some of the physical symptoms associated with stress and leaves you feeling more relaxed.


Supports Mental Health

A more positive work environment is good for your mental health.

Factors associated with a toxic workplace, such as unrealistic job demands, low social support, and job insecurity increase a person's likelihood of developing mental health problems.

Having fun at work can also help reduce burnout, stimulate positive emotions, and enhance your overall mood.


Builds Resilience

According to Bob Nelson, co-author of Work Made Fun Gets Done, making time for joy and laughter builds resilience.

Enjoyable workplace activities can also help people enhance their coping mechanisms. When faced with a challenge, an employee who has positive experiences at work is better equipped to deal with stressors.

The camaraderie that work fun fosters also allows employees to be more resilient. A problem is much less overwhelming when you can tackle it with the support of an entire team.


Mitigates Physical Health Issues

The average office employee sits 15 hours a day. A sedentary lifestyle puts you at greater risk of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Having fun at work often involves a physical component. People move around to play games or participate in team-building activities. On top of that, a happy workplace results in reduced stress, which decreases the physical strain that stress puts on the body.

And when you incorporate wellness challenges into the fun of your workplace (which we'll dive into below), you're not just decreasing the risk of adverse outcomes, you're increasing the chances of positive outcomes.

Emphasizes a Work-Life Balance and a Positive Work Environment

Encouraging employees to engage in work-appropriate fun communicates that you value them as individuals, not just paid employees.

Overall, organizations that emphasize fun at work are also more likely to promote a healthy work-life balance. A business that's described as a fun workplace often promotes boundaries and opportunities like flexible work arrangements and disconnecting during off hours.


13 Fun Activities For the Workplace

Fun means different things to different individuals. When you're trying to decide how to emphasize fun in your organization, think about what activities your employees enjoy. What makes them feel fulfilled? How can you encourage teams to grow closer and work well together?

By planning activities that engage employees and align with your organization's values, you'll create a fun company culture that makes people glad to come to work each day.

Here are a few ideas to get you started.


1. Quick and Easy Games

Inject fun into an otherwise routine staff meeting by beginning with a quick game. Many of these can be played in person or virtually during a Teams or Zoom meeting.

  • Two truths and a lie
  • Paper plane contest
  • Rock paper scissors tournaments
  • Word association
  • Icebreaker/conversation starter questions
  • Name that tune
  • Guess the sound


2. Team Building Events

While many of the suggestions on this list could fall into the category of team-building exercises, we're talking specifically about events that are designed to promote camaraderie, develop problem-solving skills, and encourage collaboration between co-workers.

Here are some team-building activities you might consider planning:

  • The Great Escape: Schedule an escape room challenge and visit a facility that facilitates these events or design your own to take place on-site.
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Outdoor adventure activities such as ropes courses or zip-lining
  • Sports tournaments
  • Murder mystery dinners

Research has shown that employees find the most joy in work and events that involve collaboration and team-building. Although they're most preferred, only 3% of the average workday involves team-building activities.

So while the suggestions above can undoubtedly foster team spirit, remember that a half-day special event isn't necessary for team building.

Anytime you create opportunities for employees to collaborate, you're encouraging fun at work.


3. Wellness Challenges

Only 1 in 4 US employees believes their workplace cares about their overall well-being.

Wellness challenges communicate that employers are committed to supporting their employees' well-being. Going to work at a place where you feel cared for is a lot more fun than working for a company where you don't feel you're valued as an individual.

Challenges also include gamification. Employees compete against one another, or against themselves, to reach a level of achievement. Even as adults, people enjoy the competition associated with gamification.

Terryberry's corporate wellness programs make it easy for you to build and host your own customized challenges that employees genuinely enjoy.


4. Company Retreats and Outings

Getting the entire team together for a corporate retreat requires additional planning and investment, but the payoff can be well worth it.

In-person company events are especially valuable for remote teams, who may have never interacted off of a screen. After spending time with their colleagues at a retreat, team members feel more connected and inspired.

Even for employees who see each other in person daily, corporate outings create opportunities to know each other on a more personal level and learn about each other's traits outside of their work persona.

The fun of company events can also boost morale and combat loneliness. 94% of leaders believe their remote teams are growing lonelier. A few days filled with human interaction and group collaboration can go a long way in preventing this loneliness.


5. Volunteer Opportunities

Few things bring more joy than the opportunity to dedicate time to a cause you care about.

Corporate community service can be structured in several different ways. Organize events in collaboration with service organizations or give employees time to volunteer with a cause that's close to their heart. Design your volunteer program based on what works best for your company and employees.


6. Decorating Contests

Bring some fun festivity into the workplace with decorating contests. These typically revolve around an upcoming holiday, and there's no shortage of ways to design a contest. Employees can compete as individuals or as teams. You may suggest different spaces to decorate such as a desk, door, or bulletin board.

A few parameters can ensure decorating contests are seen as work fun and not another chore added to their daily workload. Provide basic materials and communicate that adding extra embellishments is allowed but not expected. Encourage employees to decorate during the workday so that they're not sacrificing personal time for a work activity.

Finally, amp up the fun and encourage a little healthy competition with a small prize. Once the decorating period ends, ask employees to vote on their favorite and provide an award to the winner.


7. Book Clubs

Start a workplace book club where employees can discuss and share their favorite reads.

To maximize the "fun" of this activity, book clubs should center around books participants are interested in reading. When the book club begins to focus on professional development, it becomes another work-related task.


8. Dress Up Days

Dress-up days depend on your audience, but with an interested group of employees, they can be a fun way to create a positive and engaging atmosphere. A few options you might consider are:

  • Decades Day
  • TV/Movie character
  • Twin Day
  • Pajamas
  • Color theme
  • Sports team spirit
  • Disney day
  • Crazy socks


9. Potluck Lunches

An occasional potluck lunch inserts a little fun in the middle of the workday.

You can simply schedule a day for everyone to bring a dish, or you can plan themed potlucks that revolve around a certain type of food, like:

  • Taco Bar
  • Breakfast for Lunch
  • Soup-er Bowl
  • Picnic food
  • Pasta party
  • Apps Only
  • Build Your Own Sandwich Bar
  • BBQ Bash
  • Fiesta Food

Pick a central location for your potluck, such as the break room or kitchen, and keep the spread out for a few hours so everyone has a chance to partake.

It's a good idea to consult with staff members about how often there's interest in a company potluck. While they result in a delicious lunch, they also involve an investment of time and money to prepare delicious food. To reduce stress, make sure people understand they can opt-out without judgment. With the right balance, most employees will be thrilled to participate.


10. Board Games and Card Games

Experts suggest that for every 2 hours of focused work, you should take a 20-30 minute break. This isn't a break to check your email or complete an expense report. It's a time to completely disengage from work and avoid any cognitive overload.

Ultimately, this mental respite results in employees staying productive during the time they're completing focused work.

There is no shortage of ways for employees to step away from their work and refresh themselves, but one of the more fun options is playing games with their colleagues.

To encourage this cognitive reset and signal your commitment to preventing mental fatigue, keep a variety of games available in the workspace, such as:

  • Codenames
  • Sushi Go!
  • Uno
  • Love Letter
  • Checkers
  • Clue
  • Connect Four
  • Incan Gold
  • Hanabi

Having games accessible in the break room allows employees to play when they're ready for a mental break and encourages bonding among team members.

It also communicates that you support having fun at work and that you don't expect your employees to put on a show of productivity every moment of the workday.


11. Milestones and Personal Celebrations

Employee recognition doesn't just provide fun at work, it also results in greater job satisfaction and increased employee engagement.

Honor both personal and professional milestones whenever possible. Celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries. Recognize employees when they reach a professional goal and when they bring a new child into their family.

Design your celebrations in a way that makes sense for your organization and honors the wishes of the employee being celebrated. An introvert probably doesn't want a birthday party with all 25 members of their department, but a retiree who's leaving the company after 30 years may enjoy one last hurrah with everyone in the company.

One way to celebrate employee anniversaries is with Terryberry's service awards platform. Award employees with points they can redeem for gifts in our online store.

12. Happy Hour

Plan a memorable Friday afternoon with a corporate happy hour. Offer a mixture of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks to ensure everyone feels comfortable attending.

You can also plan virtual happy hours for remote teams, even scheduling virtual mixology classes for a one-of-a-kind event that sparks creativity.


13. Talent Show

Do you work with an especially outgoing team? Consider hosting a talent show where everyone can bring fun to the stage and showcase their unique skills.

Talent shows can infuse a healthy dose of humor into the workplace. Employees may be interested in some non-traditional acts such as comedy skits or lip-syncing. Everyone's method of bringing fun into work is a little different, so don't be afraid to encourage some unconventional performances.


A Fun Work Environment is Not Unprofessional

Each year, Fortune publishes a list outlining the 100 Best Places to Work. People employed at these companies are asked to share confidential feedback about their company culture. A 60-question survey assesses the employee experience.

Bob Nelson and his co-author Mario Tamayo have noted a similarity that continues year after year. Of the companies ranked as "great," 81% of employees could describe their office environment as fun.

Additional research confirms the connection between workplace fun and employee engagement. A study found that individuals who have fun at work are more engaged with their team and the organization itself.


Having Fun is Good For Business

Consider all of the benefits associated with having fun at work-- increased employee engagement, higher retention, improved workplace morale, and a more productive workforce.

When fun is encouraged at work, the business benefits. In companies with higher morale, stock prices increase an average of 19.4%, compared with a 10% increase in companies that have low or medium employee morale.

The financial benefits are also present in other ways. It can cost up to twice an employee's salary to replace them, so higher employee retention rates save money.

Teams who have strong collaborative skills can more effectively problem solve and typically resolve issues faster. And happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees.

The bottom line? Fun at work is good for your company's bottom line.


Ready to Have More Fun at Work?

Not only is celebrating your employees fun, but it's key to creating a positive work culture and keeping employees engaged.

Our employee engagement software is designed to help you engage and reward your employees on a day-to-day basis. With one powerful platform, employees can deliver recognition to one another, participate in corporate wellness challenges, and select custom rewards.

We're here to help you cultivate a fun workplace and ultimately transform your company culture. Schedule a demo today.