Mark your calendars: National Fun at Work Day is January 29th!
2020 was a tough one for businesses and their employees in a variety of ways. In particular, innovation—the lifeblood of consistent company success and growth—plummeted, even though productivity, in some cases, went up, according to Forbes.
In fact, a recent survey of 9,000 managers and employees across Europe found that, “Executives say their remote teams have been highly productive, with 82% saying they saw productivity levels either hold steady or increase as people shifted to remote work. At the same time, companies’ spirit of innovation has declined precipitously as their workforces got dispersed this year.”
So, what gives? If employees are still working hard—or harder than ever—why aren’t they as innovative?
The answer is fun. Employees in 2020, and now 2021, are isolated, disengaged, uninspired —largely because they aren’t able to collaborate and have fun with their coworkers enough in a work-from-home setting.
That said, with National Fun at Work Day on January 29th, 2021, your company has the opportunity to incorporate more play into remote work—which is absolutely essential to your organization’s ongoing success. Here are three reasons why.
1. Fun Makes Employees More Engaged in their Work
Research shows that employees who find their workplace fun are often more engaged at work, and that engaged employees are absolutely integral to the success of your company. This is because they are more emotionally invested in the mission and goals of the organization.
“Exploratory findings suggest that some forms of workplace fun offer individual employees a refreshing break which creates a positive effect. Participants perceive that such affect results in greater workplace and task engagement,” one study reports.
And yet, the chaotic conditions of the pandemic and the isolation inherent in remote work, has negatively affected employee engagement in 2020, studies show. In fact, according to a Gallup poll, employee engagement dropped drastically in the early months of the pandemic, when many folks were laid off, workflows were disrupted, and before companies found the technology needed to establish and maintain people-first cultures remotely.
Since companies have gotten more acquainted with the demands of remote work, for instance by incorporating games into Zoom calls, employee engagement—and innovation— has rebounded a bit. After all, data indicates that engagement is “highly correlated” with innovation behaviors within organizations.
This translates to better profit and growth for your company. Companies with engaged employees retain them—avoiding the exorbitant costs of re-hiring and training, and creating a stable, adaptable workforce they can rely on during this difficult time.
2. A Sense of Fun Makes Companies More Innovative
As the aforementioned statistic notes, a key component of business success is coming up with innovative ideas that can help you outshine your competitors. But great ideas aren’t born out of thin air—they have to be fostered by a supportive and innovative company culture, which is especially tricky to foster during the era of remote work.
By adding more fun into remote work days—even by just celebrating National Fun at Work Day this year with a virtual activity—companies can remind employees of the enjoyable company culture that drew them to work for you in the first place, and lay the foundation for future creativity in the process.
According to studies like this one from Lund University, play as simple as doodling increases creativity, productivity, and group cohesion by helping people learn and remember salient details better and increasing functional connections in the brain.
As well, play based on improvisation and association, like this technique Mindhatch uses, can have an even more blatant effect on ideation. In fact, in a study of 11 employees who were asked to participate in an improv comedy workshop designed “with the goal of helping designers be more prolific, and thus creative, idea generators,” found a 37% increase in idea output upon their next brainstorming session.
3. Fun bolsters the resiliency of your company
Back at the office, workers had coffee breaks, birthday parties, retreats, initiatives and holiday gatherings to look forward to on the hard days. Now, with a reduced capacity to gather socially, the cheerful moments the workforce needs during this difficult time are harder to come by. This presents yet another reason to master the art of virtual workplace fun as a company, and make a concerted effort to adapt birthday parties, work retreats, and holiday gatherings to the constraints of remote work.
“Silliness can be self-protective; a way of eluding an ‘unprecedented’ challenge instead of caving into it,” The Guardian recently reported. “To play is to bend limits rather than rally against them and maybe, in doing so, find unexpected room to move. It is in essence freedom, if only illusory — and there can be relief in that, too.”
By capitalizing on the positive impacts of workplace fun, companies prime their employees to be more engaged, more creative, and more resilient—which, in turn, allows them to progress and deliver at work in spite of tumultuous times.
As Forbes reports about this current era: “Organizations are charged with relentlessly pursuing a better experience for their workforce — and the ones that prioritize belonging, resilience, and well-being are the ones positioned to thrive in the year ahead.”
Hence, as we endure and recover from the pandemic, fun is a means of business survival. So, go ahead, embrace some frivolity!