Deadlines, work pressure, unpredictability and uncertainty. Sound all too familiar? These are the buzzwords that most professionals dread hearing! And escaping the challenges present in a competitive work environment is seemingly impossible. But, what is heartening is that organisations and their leaders realise the importance of people and the pivotal role they play in the overall business strategy. The need to relieve employees of work pressures to maintain a happy work environment has led to the fun at work concept gaining popularity. ASK Investment Holdings Pvt. Ltd. (ASK), a financial services group that offers research-based investment advice, pays a lot of emphasis to fun at work as a business enabler. Mona Cheriyan, director-human resources (HR), ASK says, “If the organisation can liven up the workplace, the motivation levels increase. This has a direct bearing on employee morale and productivity, in turn, improving team communication and personal motivation.”
Rupert Picardo, founder-director, d’frens, a people engagement organisation offering customised solutions to address employee engagement and fun at work, believes that organisations spend much more time, effort and money on recruitment than retention. “If organisations can focus on keeping employees happy, they need not constantly worry about filling vacant positions,” he says. Today, employees have lot more choices and do not mind spending a significant portion of time at the workplace if they like what they do and where they work. Cheriyan adds, “Organisations can turn around their perspective to experience a fresh lease of energy and creativity. I urge you to change your paradigm from facilitating employees to just doing their jobs to them enjoying their workplace.
Fun activities at work can significantly impact employee engagement by addressing several feel good factors. It can positively improve employee bonding, inter-team collaboration and communication. Agrees Deepti Sheth, an employee at ASK, “These initiatives certainly re-energise me to face my routine.” Urvashi Muni, senior HR business partner at VMware, a global leader in virtualisation and cloud infrastructure, finds fun at work a great way to build a conducive work culture. In her experience at VMware, tangible advantages have been achieved through fun at work initiatives. Few visible positive shifts in the VMware culture have been reduced employee stress and increased sense of ownership for the organisation.
Getting started on fun
Peer pressure and the need for social acceptance are two factors that push employees to get actively involved in these initiatives. The core group could represent the organisation in terms of age, experience, gender, interest etc. This team can play an important role in scheduling and planning the various initiatives through the year. A hierarchical approach to fun at work often gets people nowhere.
Cheriyan says, “What has worked well for us is to get an enthusiastic group of employees to form the social/culture club. At ASK we have branded it ‘Sanskruti’ and the punch line is if you have fun at work, you deliver more.”
As implied, the approach towards fun at work needs to be more casual, more flexible. Attaching parameters to determine effectives or setting out deliverables does not help the cause. And avoid planning these initiatives in times of no work. Help employees understand that having fun is as important as any other business priority. Picardo says, “A lot of organisations do a TGIF (Thank god it is Friday) event. When we interact with employees, many of them feel it to be a waste of their time since it is neither fun nor interesting.”
It is critical for organisations to constantly focus on improving indicators like participation, employee feedback, and novelty in the event and more. If you find the bulk of your employees un-enthusiastic, delve deeper on what can create excitement for them and implement a customised solution. Finally, set a budget for fun initiatives. Make sure that there is an impact of this intervention at both the team level and organisational level. Allocate a budget to team managers to take their team out or plan informal activities. Make the fun at work process inclusive. It is vital to find seamless ways of crossing cultural boundaries, addressing the gender differences, allowing employees to work from home and across locations.
Fun at work is no longer an optional, a ‘good to do’ intervention. It is increasingly becoming essential for organisations to find ways of making the workplace relaxed, informal and exciting. An employee in this environment will think better and find creative ways of contributing to further organisational success.
Things to remember
* Keep it straight, keep it simple
* You cannot do one thing and say “we are having fun”. For some, it may involve playing a game. For others it might be an online version of the same game. For some others, it might mean reading a book or sitting at the cafeteria.
* While you may not be able to appease all, you should still try and allow as much freedom to create a fun experience that is as varied as possible
Rupert Picardo at d’frens shares some ideas that work :
* Short team building games at the workplace on a fortnightly basis
* Larger format games at the cafeteria or breakout areas on a monthly basis
* Theme based activities – major festivals, learning, sport, mental challenges, talent related
* Online games with a communication message – for example, an interesting online game to communicate risk policies or information technology security or HR policies
* Way of involving family– Kids day at work, movie with family etc.
Mona Cheriyan speaks of what ASK does:
* Sanskruti has a calendar of events throughout the year
* Sports events – football, basketball, annual cricket tournament – ASK Challengers
* Interesting informal classes – ceramic painting and glass painting
Urvashi Muni gives us an insight into VMWare’s activities:
* Organization wide – beer bash, movie day, kids day, sports / quiz / talent contests with rotating trophies, gaming zone.
* Team wide – pot luck parties, festive games / fun meetings held offsite