Employee Engagement – Putting fun back into the workplace

13th July 2015

Over the past decade the notion of employee engagement has positioned itself at the forefront of management thought. Generally viewed as an internal state of being, employee engagement encompasses the physical, mental and emotional states of individuals, building on the earlier concepts of work effort, organisational commitment, job satisfaction and productivity.

Several definitions of engagement exist, each with their different angles. The CIPD have defined employee engagement as “being positively present during the performance of work by willingly contributing intellectual effort, experiencing positive emotions and meaningful connections to others”. It can be in relation to either the role job itself; relationships with colleagues; the organisation as a whole; and in a lot of instances, people outside the organisation too.

Boredom can arise from routine and repetitive tasks. It can also rise out of the lack of opportunities to be creative. Each day, workers around the globe undertake tedious tasks. Introducing boredom-breaking activities can lead to greater creativity and a tolerance for carrying out such repetitive tasks. Fun in the workplace can improve work quality and mental health. ‘Fun’, defined as “enjoyment, amusement, or light-hearted pleasure” increases creativity and fulfils human social needs. It breaks up boredom, improves communication and overall relieves tension and conflict. The idea that happy employees are productive employees is one very bright idea indeed.

There are 80 million Millennials in the workforce today and they want to work with people who they consider to be friends or, to go even further, consider their co-workers to be a second family. And why not, out of the 120 hours in a 5 day working week, on average 40 of them are spent at work and 40 are spent asleep. The remaining 40 either commuting to the workplace or on other activities and hobbies. Most workers spend more time within a working week with their colleagues than they do with their significant others, meaning it’s now even more important to ensure co-workers get along.

Does more fun equal less work?

All work and no play might make Jack a dull boy, but on the other hand “all play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.”

Combine these two expressions together, and we have a motto that precisely embodies the two most predominant views on linking together the ideas of work and play. There are still many companies that remain adverse to the idea. A likely reason for this may be that the leaders of these organisations are baby boomers or Generation X, and as such remain faithful to the traditional practice of keeping work and play isolated. Why? Simply because it’s what they’ve always done. However, the most frequent objection to creating a fun work environment revolves around the matter of productivity.

So, does more fun mean less work? Research has shown that happy employees perform at a much higher level than those who are not happy. Millennials have indicated that a fun, social work environment is a crucial factor in job satisfaction.

Fun in the workplace can significantly improve retention, happiness, talent quality, and productivity. Under the right circumstances, a fun work environment can benefit both the organisation and employees in a number of ways. The rewards are great enough that each and every organisation should be obligated to at least ponder it as an option.