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Why we need to have more fun at work

Published on Saturday, 21 Feb 2015
Tony Hsieh

Technology is set to revolutionise the way companies and employees interact

Have you ever worked someplace where one day you just could not face going back into the office? You just did not feel there was any “fun” in it anymore?

Some people will tell you this is commonplace. Others will say: “Who cares, since when is work supposed to be fun?” But given that we spend so much time at work, should we not at least find some pleasure in it?

Several years ago, Tony Hsieh, chief executive of Zappos, wrote a book called Delivering Happiness. His aim was to “contribute to a happiness movement to make the world a better place”.

At Zappos, an online retailer with over US$1 billion in annual revenue, the firm created the Zappos Culture Book. The idea was to ensure that everyone knew and lived by the firm’s 10 core values, some of which are: “create fun and a little weirdness”, be adventurous, creative and open-minded, build a positive team and family spirit, and be passionate and determined. As Hsieh has pointed out: “If you get the culture right, the other stuff will fall into place.”

Interestingly, decades before, William Byham wrote a book called Zapp! The Lightning of Empowerment! In this fable of an organisation, he creatively illustrates what ‘zapps’ (or energises) and what ‘sapps’ (depletes) people.

For example, meaningless, repetitive work; no input on decisions; and everyone being treated like interchangeable parts all ‘sapp’ employees, while responsibility, trust, being listened to and praise help ‘zapp’ them.

There are plenty of things firms can do. Some encourage or set up inter-office games, team-building activities and icebreakers at meetings.

They host social events and celebrations and sponsor office sports teams. They even allow silly pranks.

Research notes that millennials and younger workers really expect a workplace that is social and fun, because this is considered their second family. I agree, but I don’t think older workers necessarily want to work in a dull environment either.

In fact, if they are continually asked to do more and more due to competition, budget cuts and such, then making sure there is humour and fun at work may be even more important that ever.

 


Joyce Russell is director of the executive coaching and leadership development programme at the University of Maryland’s Robert H Smith School of Business.

 

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