Friday, 1 June 2012

Worried about the bottom line? Have Fun!

Are you worried about being caught surfing the net, updating your Facebook status or ‘tweeting’, while at work? Surfing the web actually increases productivity according to a new study from the University of Melbourne. Dr. Brent Coker of the University of Melbourne studied 300 workers and found that employees, who took time between tasks to shop online, play online games or watch videos on YouTube were 9 per cent more productive in a given day than their colleagues who did not. The University of Melbourne study is by no means a misnomer. A University of Florida research found that workers who have a good time while they are on the clock, accomplished more, showed a higher level of creativity and extended more help to co-workers. The idea that fun and work do not walk hand-in-hand had taken a walk a few decades ago. Work and productivity may be serious business on which experts and academics rack their brains, but that does not mean employees should not be having fun in the workplace. Research over the last few years suggests that there is a positive correlation between fun in the workplace and productivity. According to the Great Place to Work(R) Institute, a research and management-consulting company, the stock-market value for Fortune magazine’s ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ grew four times faster than the market between 1998 and 2005. No wonder the noted inventor and self-confessed workaholic Thomas Alva Edison said, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.”

For the HR professional, the best part of implementing ‘fun at work’ activities is that it need not burst the budget. More often than not it is possible to tie-in fun activities with existing rewards and recognition programmes. These activities also typically garner more volunteers and champions then the run-of-the-mill. In times when every little increase in budget needs several rounds of management justification, fun-at-work activities is just godsend.

With the case for making the workplace fun, having been made, I must warn my colleagues in HR about the pitfalls of going over the top with fun. Making the workplace fun is serious business, and small miscalculations may be the difference between spectacular success and abysmal failure. While implementing fun at work activities it is important for us to keep the context in view at all times. Perception of fun vary between cultures and within cultures, and what works for employees in China may just be anathema to employees in India. While customers at a restaurant or retail outlet may appreciate employees having a fun time, those at a hospital emergency out-patient department could find it to be callous and insensitive. A one-size-fits-all philosophy to implementing these activities will almost certainly spell disaster.

In this issue, we bring to you a variety of perspectives on ‘fun at work’ from both employees and employers, across industries. The team talked to retirees and job-seekers, novices and experts, the blue-collared and the blue-blooded to bring in a rounded view about this much talked about subject. It was an eye-opener for us, and while we try to make working at The Human Factor more fun, I hope and believe you will find this issue actionable and impactful. Happy reading!

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