“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work.” This was Aristotle’s belief about what helps us excel in our work. A similar idea echoes in what millennials today believe – ‘Love what you do, do what you love’. Though separated by thousands of years, the thread of wisdom that ties these generations is: without components of joy or fun, work is incomplete.
In an earlier post, we had explored the powerful benefits of having a culture of play and fun – it helps employees take more initiative, builds leadership agility, and rewires our brain. Curious what such a culture would look like? Here are some ideas:
Teams that eat together, stay together. Thumbtack, a services firm, has employees sit down together family style for lunches. Similarly, Teresa Ou, Head of Business Operations at Lyra Health, encourages her teammates to host rotating dinners out, where employees introduce their coworkers to their favorite dish or restaurant. She says, “We like to celebrate the personality of our team — the events really help to humanize the people you’re working with.”
Why? The social connections that come about from eating together, are known to improve memory and cognition, so much so that it could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. Moreover, meals have a way of inviting storytelling, which makes people express themselves better.
Invite novel learning opportunities. And this goes beyond MOOCs. We’re referring to learning through theatre and improvisation. The decline of creativity is what psychologists refer to as ‘inculturation.’ That as we get older, we become invested in the status quo. We develop habitual ways of thinking and routines, we develop customs in terms of how we solve problems. This makes it harder to think outside the box.
However, “Improvisation gives you the ability to adapt and embrace change,” says Bob Kulhan, professor at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. Learning through theatre establishes an environment where employees can move out of their comfort zones and take risks, embrace mistakes, and exercise their creativity. Their mind-sets and behavioral repertoires expand, while they think they are just playing!
Turn to humor. A Stanford research shows that the workplace is “in the midst of a laughter drought,” which spans Monday-Friday, because we just can’t find the fun in work. Apparently, as adults we are laughing just 15 times a day, as compared to the 400 times that children do. And if we’re looking at a culture of fun and playfulness, humor can’t be ignored. It has business benefits too!
Weave humor into your communication, like Southwest Airlines does – “We got you here roughly 25 minutes early. So, next time you fly Southwest and we happen to be running late, remember that you owe us 25 minutes.” This, because they know flying is stressful for many. Or, it could be a quirky idea, like the one CEO of Cartoon Network Stuart Snyder implemented. Named the ‘Most Playful CEO’ of 2012, he is often seen peddling around the company grounds on his oversized tricycle.
No amount of work experience can fully prepare us for the challenges the complex global economy brings on a day to day basis. But what can make it easier to learn and bear the growth pains? A culture of fun.