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The Fun Factor

the fun factor
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Want an instant jump in employee productivity and loyalty? Install a retro arcade machine in your breakout room. Get a pool table. According to the figures, when your employees regularly enjoy themselves at work they routinely perform better.

The most fun companies in the world

Innocent, the company that makes those cleverly-marketed smoothies, is famous for having the coolest office building in London. Spread out over five luxurious floors, it's more like a funfair crossed with a Great British Bake Off set than an office space. Employees enjoy lunch in a huge central area, built like an indoor park complete with bunting and picnic tables. There's a traditional library, boasting a pool of novels for workers to share - and in which employees do their research.

Google's London HQ includes an Alice in Wonderland-esque “Veloumptious Snug” - a breakout area featuring massive tiered sofa seating arrangements, completely padded from banquette to ceiling in British-pub-style green velvet. It's also got a secret roof garden, a crazy padded cell meeting room and a communal allotment in which employees are encouraged to grow their own vegetables - from Google-supplied seeds.

Can't stretch to an office redesign? Doesn't matter. Google's retro-futuristic offices are impressive, but they're really just an expensive expression of something much more fundamental to business success: a relaxed and productive office culture.

How to have fun at work

No-one actually enjoys getting up and going into the office. Right?

Wrong. While big businesses like Google and Innocent might have the bucks to make massive fun statements, plenty of normal companies keep their employees happy with more affordable options. Work socials, free seating (like hot desking, but everyone does it so you get to choose where you want to work each day) and company parties are all excellent ways to break down reserved staff members, destabilise traditional hierarchies and get talent operating at its full potential.

Try a fun day to kickstart your new campaign of office enjoyment. Run a wine tasting session. Get your sales team dancing in a funk-filled modern lesson. Recreate a school sports day. When you start thinking fun, the options are endless.

Diagnosing your fun quotient

So, how much fun is your company? According to AG Careers, an agriculture, food and biotech recruiter from the US, plenty of businesses suffer from “terminal seriousness” - a joke phrase coined to playfully push the buttons of exactly the kinds of work cultures it wants to get rid of.

The HR honchos at AGC advise routinely checking to see if your staff can be seen smiling and/or laughing during their daily work, and whether people who work for you will get together to appreciate a funny event or action. It also recommends keeping an eye on your company performance as a whole. Do you do stuff that actively encourages people to have fun while they're on your clock?

In 2012, Mintel CEO Peter Haigh identified staff happiness as the biggest reason for the company's outstanding attendance record. Since the introduction of its free seating initiative, Mintel has enjoyed “a more than 10 percent reduction in days off”.

Businesses that regularly fail to provide a less serious atmosphere for their employees experience higher absences, diminished productivity and eventually bigger staff turnover. So why so serious? Loosen up, and learn how to have fun. It'll be the best thing you ever did.

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Written by Jim Alexander

02nd Thursday July 2015

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