Mel Armstrong proves that, yes, fun is possible at work - and outlines how Flight Centre has benefited from adding a spark of fun to their workplace
What is now an eight-year tradition, The Flight Centre Travel Group ‘Slip-n-Slide’, became an unexpected viral phenomenon in December 2014. As stories and video footage of the outrageous event erupted around the world, many considered whether this display of extreme fun cemented the Brisbane-based company as the ‘world’s best place to work’.
When asked to explain their ongoing support for the event, many Flight Centre senior leaders agreed that the slide was an important part of company’s culture of fun and enjoyment, and many felt it played a vital role in celebrating the high performance of their teams.
With Flight Centre sporting over thirty years of success and high levels of employee engagement – you might ask the question…does having ‘fun’ at work produce real benefit to business?
What’s Fun Got to Do With It? The Science.
You may think that fun and work don’t belong in the same sentence. However, recent research suggests that there are significant benefits for companies who embracing the ‘fun factor’.
At an individual level, there are many benefits of having fun in the workplace. According to Dr David Abramis, a psychologist with over thirty years of organisational research, people who enjoy themselves at work tend to have more positive relationships with co-workers, and are overall more productive in their work output.
The neurological benefits of fun on brain and body are powerful too. When people are having fun, their brains are more likely to be in a ‘reward’ state. This positive mindset programs the human brain to be more open to opportunities, change and collaboration; and less restricted by fear and stress.
In addition to these individual benefits, there is a range of evidence supporting the positive impact that fun has on organisational performance. According to Fortune’s ‘Top 100 Best Companies to Work For’ data, companies that consistently score higher in the ‘fun place to work’ category also outperform their peers for financial returns and low employee turnover.
Companies that focus on fun also appear to have higher levels of employee engagement, which is critical for driving discretionary effort and performance. Flight Centre Travel Group, widely known for its commitment to fun and celebration in the workplace (including global balls, employee benefits and incentive models), boasts an employee engagement rate of almost three times the Australian average.
Given the evidence linking the positive impact of enjoyment on performance, it seems foolish not to leverage the benefits of fun at work. But before you run off to install a slip-and-slide in your office – let’s first take a moment to consider what ‘fun’ at work really means. And does it hold the same meaning for every employee and company?
Is ‘Fun’ For Everyone?
It’s true that the definition of fun can be very subjective – in a study by BrightHR, employee descriptions of ‘fun’ at work ranged from having regular social activities to having the ability to clock-off at a reasonable hour.
In addition to this, the study also found that social demographics like age and gender also had a significant impact on employee’s perception of the value of fun at work. Analysis showed that Gen-Y employees value having fun at work more so than older generations, and that 55% of women believed that workplace fun would have a positive impact on work performance, versus 45% of men.
Given these nuances, it is important to give consideration to the social culture of your office when planning your ‘fun strategy’. Whilst ‘slip-and-slides’ and global balls may be appropriate for Flight Centre – every organisation should draw upon their own unique culture when considering fun at work.
While our definitions may vary, the idea of ‘fun’ is something we all share – so the most important thing to remember is to make time for it!
How To Inject The Fun Factor Into Your Workplace
As fun is more an attitude, not simply an action – injecting fun into a workplace may take a little bit of time. The good news is that it’s definitely worth the investment!
Here are a few Ideas to set your organisation on the right path:
- Choose ‘fun’ as the tone of your workplace – By showcasing the benefits and leading the way, others will be sure to follow!
- Get others involved – Once fun is seen to be acceptable at work, most employees are quick to add their own flair. Bring them on board and share the load!
- Be appropriate - Not every kind of fun suits every workplace or team member. Different people value different kinds of fun - and not everyone wants to play laser tag for example!
- Start small – remember, you don’t need a slip-and-slide or throw a big office party to have fun – sometimes it’s the smaller investments that deliver priceless results.
Five “Fun Ideas” for the Workplace
- ‘Dress down day’ – Casual dress days are an easy and popular way to add some variety into a work week, and show value for employees’ comfort. You could even link this day to a ‘gold coin donation’ to fundraise for charity.
- ‘Games Corner’ – If you have the space in your office, introducing a games corner is a great way to encourage play and interaction within the workplace. Invest in a pool or ping pong table, embrace some retro fun with some arcade pinball machines, or even some board game favourites like chess and scrabble will do the trick!
- ‘Fun Fitness’ – Combining health and fun is a great way to boost morale while contributing to the wellbeing of your team. Incorporating walking meetings, group fitness classes, or mindfulness breaks will get your workplace buzzing with fun and fitness!
- ‘Bake Off’ – If your workplace has a sweet tooth, why not organise a bake off? Invite your best bakers to show off their skills for a prize – or donate proceeds to charity for an extra warm and fuzzy feeling!
- ‘Office Parties/Night Out’ – Creating an opportunity to socialise out of the workplace, is a great way to build relationships between co-workers. After all, we often spend more time with our colleagues than our friends or family. How well do you know the people you work with?
Melissa Armstrong is the General Manager of Goldmind. For further information visit www.goldmindperformance.com/