If you have never seen the BBC2 hit and mockumentary The Office, you are missing out on a comedy classic that offers a unique insight into a contemporary, light-hearted workplace. While David Brent’s cringeworthy humour, ridiculous dancing and burning desire to be loved may have exaggerated the point, it captured a then real-time trend for creating fun workplaces that were set apart from the traditional, dour offices that once littered the UK skyline.
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The cultivation of fun and more relaxed workspaces came as a response to the evolution of the traditional office, which became increasingly abstract thanks to innovations such as remote communication technology, virtual meeting software and flexible working directives. With employees suddenly able to work productively from home, it was crucial that employers increased the appeal of the workplace and made it a more exciting and interactive space that encouraged collaboration.
While this makes perfect sense in theory, it is imperative that fun workplaces also remain profitable. After all, the staff at Wernham Hogg (and Dunder Mifflin in the American version of The Office) could never be described as being productive, whether they were indulging in the so-called ‘Office Olympics’ or dealing with the fallout from a managerial midlife crisis.
The party should never come at the expense of the bottom line and in this respect the creation of a fun and relaxed working environment creates significant challenges in terms of maintaining balance, motivation and mental focus. However, it is not impossible to create a fun workplace which can actually increase the profitability of your business- it only needs to be done correctly.
So without further ado, here are three steps towards achieving this:
1. Understand the Relationship Between Work and Play
If you are to achieve a healthy balance between fun and productivity, it is crucial that you first understand the relationship between work and play. While these two entities are often positioned as polar opposites, they are actually values that sit comfortably on the same spectrum and have the potential to co-exist in relative harmony.
Essentially, creating a balance between work and play in the typical office relies on strong time management skills. While employers can spend time attempting to make the work itself fun and exciting, this is a forlorn challenge when you consider the mundane nature of tasks such as filing, typing and (God forbid) photocopying. Instead, it is more practical to create time for employees to enjoy fun, laughter and recreation at work while also creating a culture of trust that encourages staff members to manage their own time effectively.
While this does not mean that any staff member should be allowed to perform a David Brent-esque dance in the middle of the office, employers should empower their representatives with the autonomy to work to their own schedule. This affords them the freedom to indulge in office fun and high jinks where appropriate, while it also helps to develop trust between managers and the hard-working teams that support them. Google’s so-called ’20 time rule’ is the perfect embodiment of this, as although this is often misunderstood there is an opportunity for employees to spend a portion of their working day attending to their own creative projects.
This drives higher levels of morale and productivity, and in addition to this you can use your own understanding of human psychology to optimise the work and play balance. Britons are among the most festive and fun-loving citizens in the world during Christmas time, for example, and this is reflected by the fact that this demographic spent a cumulative £74 billion between November and December last year. You can tap into this spirit by initiating games and interaction at Christmas, affording your employees greater freedom while workloads temporarily decline and incentivizing them to work harder during busier periods.
2. Start the Party With Your Recruitment Policy
We tend to deal in stereotypes as a society, especially when it comes to analysing particular roles and the type of personality that undertakes them. There is a general perception that accountants are dour, for example, while those with a creative ability are often considered as being more open-minded and free spirited. While it is madness to take these insights literally, there is truth and merit to such logic (would you want Krusty the Clown managing your finances, for example?)
Of course not, but the idea of hiring specific personality types will also have a direct bearing on the type of office and workplace culture that you are able to cultivate. If it is part of your vision to develop a fun and exciting workplace, for example, it is imperative that you factor this goal into the recruitment process and strive to create a happy and energetic office dynamic.
This cannot come at the expense of competence or work-ethic, however, so you must take the time to prioritise the numerous attributes that you want your employees to embody. Once you have qualified applicants based on their skill-sets and experience, you can begin to assess their unique personality type and the level of positive energy that they are likely to bring to the office. So long as this energy can be harnessed and directed with the type of time management skills mentioned earlier, you can gradually establish a fun and collaborative business dynamic that also manages to achieve results.
This also makes the task of motivating and incentivizing your employees easier, and if nothing else you can at least look forward to a raucous Christmas party at the end of every year!
3. Involve the Entire Business in Creative Processes
When you think about it, the workplace can be an unfair and cruel place at times. While finance managers are often forced to trawl through piles of paperwork with a meticulous eye and the kind of attention to detail that would embarrass Columbo, for example, creatives spend their time drinking lattes while creating fun and exciting marketing campaigns. I exaggerate, of course, but this perception can cause resentment in the workplace while containing fun in the workplace to a select few departments.
You are also restricting the flow of ideas within your business, as it is not only those with a creative mind that can contribute positively to brainstorming sessions. There is research which suggests that many creatives often take the so-called path of ‘least mental resistance’, which encourages them to build on or adapt existing ideas that they previously conceived. In contrast, those with practical thought processes do not have a bank of pre-existing ideas to choose from, while they also thing differently and in narrower lines that can deliver relevant ideas.
With these things considered, there are multiple and obvious benefits to involving the entire business in the creative process. It encourages those who work in more restrictive job roles to operate outside of their comfort zone, adding diversity in their working day and encouraging greater levels of collaboration between team members. There is also an excellent chance that this will improve the quality of ideas and concepts put forward, helping your business to create the most effective marketing strategies.
All of these factors combine to create an open, fun and exciting workplace, where collaboration drives daily interaction and higher levels of innovation. You must refrain from forcing employees to participate in creative processes and brainstorming sessions, however, as strips the fun from the exercise and renders it almost entirely pointless. Instead, focus on making the creative process accessible to employees who want to participate and encourage their efforts.
With these points in mind, it is possible for you to create a fun and engaging workplace while also increasing the profitability of your business.
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