Why It Pays for Work to Be Fun and Where to Focus Your Efforts

Updated: Jan 29

Is "fun" on your organization's list of values? If not, maybe it should be. Eighty-one percent of employees who work at organizations denoted as "great" on Fortune's "100 Best Places to Work For" list say they are working in a fun work environment. For comparison, only 62 percent of employees who work at organizations denoted as "good" say the same thing. Fun work environments are correlated with improved communication, morale and creativity.

In addition, the 100 Best Companies to Work For tend to have less employee turnover, even in industries known for job hopping. For instance, in information technology, turnover is six percent at the companies on the list versus the industry standard of 14 percent. In professional services, turnover is 11 percent versus 25 percent for the industry.

With the high levels of stress that people carry around these days, it's important to make our work as fun and enjoyable as possible.

I know that putting fun near the top of the list might feel counter-intuitive. When I started my career, I worked to make a living and not to have fun, even though I have always loved my work, and I also liked to have fun. But with almost 80 percent of millennials saying it is more important to enjoy work than to make a lot of money, a change in thinking is being required to recruit, retain and engage them. Millennials say that if they hate the job enough, then they'd rather just not work at all. The good news to me is that this trend is possibly something we can all wrap our minds around and enjoy the benefits. Below are some best practices used by Fortune's "best" and other well-known brands.

Let people's individuality show through.

We are working with a company that says, "Rainbow hair? We don't care!" Another client of Spark's encourages people to use their workspaces to highlight their passions in life. "When you're surrounded by items you love, like pictures of your family or sports themes – whatever it is that moves you - then inspiration is only inches away," says one people manager.

Of course, individuality is not all about how you look (rainbow hair or not) or how you decorate your office space, it's also about work style and skill development. When you can, provide team members with the opportunity to shine whether through something as simple as starting a meeting to presenting their work to the team or leading a brainstorming. Working with employees to apply their special talents to their work is one of the most powerful management techniques, improving engagement and results.

Provide work life balance.

This is one of the most powerful ways you can let employees know that you care about them and that you respect their time. Some research has shown that work life balance - ahead of money, recognition and autonomy - is the key determiner for more than half of men and women on whether they have a successful career. It prevents burnout, allows employees to enjoy what they have now, lowers stress and improves productivity. Some of the below stats spotlight the importance of work life balance. Technology can play a major role in enabling work life balance for employees, so if you are looking for ways to provide flexibility or gain some for yourself, review the technology tools available to streamline work and collaborate with ease.

  • 22% of people have changed jobs due to work/life balance issues.

  • 53% of employees say a role that allows them to have greater work-life balance and better personal well-being is "very important" to them.

  • Top reasons why job seekers will leave for another job: more compensation (61%), location (42%), better work-life balance (40%), health benefits (36%), growth opportunities (35%), company culture (21%) and leadership (15%).

Encourage friendships at work.

We've talked about this before on our blog, Do I Belong Here? How Friends Improve Employee Engagement, but we're mentioning it again because it's key to recognize that people are happier when they work with their friends. Gallup reports that friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, and people with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work. Organizations benefit from fostering a culture of friendship - they can do this with their existing workforce, and they can also look to hire friends of people who currently work at the organization.

A good way to build friendships within your company is to hire friends - your friends and your coworkers' friends. Below are some stats on the benefits of incorporating a Refer a Friend campaign to your recruiting strategy.

  • Referral hires have greater job satisfaction and stay longer at companies – 46% stay over 1 year, 45% over 2 years and 47% over 3 years.

  • 67% of employers and recruiters said the recruiting process was shorter, and 51% said it was less expensive to recruit via referrals.

  • 70% of employers felt referred hires fit the company culture and values better.

And, last, but not least - provide purpose at work.

All of the above factors might seem frivolous to employees if they don't believe they perform meaningful workday to day. Employees will not be impressed by your organization's "fun-ness" if they feel that what they do doesn't matter. On the other hand, if your organization can help employees connect what they do every day to the company vision, supported by a fun and caring environment, then I believe the sky is the limit.

Here are some stats that drive home the important of meaning and purpose to employees:

  • Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work are more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations, reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and are 1.4 times more engaged.

  • 57% of employees said "meaningful work" contributes most toward a positive workplace sentiment.

  • 38% of employees said "the company's mission" is a top reason they love their company.

#Culture #engagement