How to Have Fun at Work While Working from Home

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The evidence that fun boosts the health of individual employees—and workplace performance—is overwhelming. A 2015 study from BrightHR found that,  “employees that have fun in the workplace, from belly laughs and birthday celebrations to Xboxes and massages, take less sick leave, work harder and are more productive.” Additionally, Harvard Business Review reports that “Research shows that when people work with a positive mind-set, performance on nearly every level—productivity, creativity, engagement—improves.”

But, how do we have fun at work when everyone is working remotely from home these days? We’ve put our brains to work and have come up with the following ways to have fun at work while working from home. 

Have Fun at Work By Incorporating Play 

Illustration of 2 dogs attending Zoom meeting
Have fun at work by leveraging your pets!

Just like in elementary school, when the teacher let us play ‘Heads up 7up’ before the lunch bell, time for a little play in your remote work teams can reinvigorate and excite you for what work comes next. 

  • As we wrote in 6 Ways to Make Your Remote Meetings More Human Centered, having a pet or baby show-and-tell moment with your coworkers over Zoom can be a quick way to lift everyone’s spirits. Who doesn’t love a cute dog? And who doesn’t love it more when it’s interrupting an otherwise boring meeting?
  • Incorporate drawing. This one can be especially good for the introverts out there. Doing simple things like starting off virtual meetings by asking everyone to silently draw another person’s face, or adapting Collaborative Drawing exercises for virtual partnership using iPads and sketching apps can help reinstate a sense of childlike creativity and fun while working from home. 
  • Play FIVE THINGS. This is Mindhatch’s very own improv brain game that can really spice up virtual meetings and get people feeling relaxed, connected, and spontaneous.
  • Play games outside of work together.  “We’ve been playing a D&D campaign at work with a custom map made by one of our cooperative members!”  says Jasmin Eng of Story2Designs. Many bar trivia contests have gone virtual too.
  • Have a virtual rock, paper, scissors tournament! We’ve done this a lot during in-person Organizational Improv™ sessions, but believe us when we say it also works great virtually. Gather everyone in a Zoom meeting and use breakout groups for people to go head-to-head in pairs simultaneously. Winner of Breakout Room 1 plays winner of Breakout Room 2, and so on. Repeat this a few times and in just a few minutes you’ll have a final match-up between two colleagues that everyone can root for!
  • Did you often have a 3000-piece jigsaw puzzle going in the office break room? Continue the tradition while everyone is working from home and work on an online jigsaw puzzle together! There are online board games, too, perfect for some lunch break fun!

Have Fun at Work by Encouraging Employee Bonding with Remote-Only Tools 

At the same time, having fun at work doesn’t have to be as deliberate as playing a game. Sometimes structured, “enforced” fun is the opposite of employees’ idea of a good time. Instead, create opportunities to connect on a human-level with coworkers using the remote-only tools you are already stuck with. In other words, if your office normally plans and enjoys group happy hours, shared lunches, or other events, consider how to sustain those important rituals virtually while everyone is working from home.

  • Designate a channel or Slack or Google Messenger for office trivia or water cooler discussion topics (“What are you doing this weekend?”) and have people share their responses. Or, you can use a channel to play Rose/Thorn. For this game, start a group chat or channel and have everyone share his or her “Rose,” which is any positive aspect of their day that makes them feel grateful and positive, and then his or her “Thorn,” which is something that challenged them that day. Rose/Thorn is a great way to encourage mutual understanding and empathy, which might otherwise be difficult to achieve when everyone is working from home.
  • When the clock strikes 5 pm (extra points if you start at 4pm) have everyone grab their favorite beverage and hang out for a cocktail hour on Google Hangouts or Zoom or whatever your workplace’s preferred virtual meeting platform is.
  • You’ve heard of having your pets on your video calls while working from home, but what about donkeys or llamas? Dangrooster allows you to have farm animals to your next virtual meeting and delight your teams! Head to their site, select your meeting date, and they will pair you with an animal from their North Carolina far. Or, if llamas better-suit your fancy, check out Sweet Water Farms for a similar “guest celebrity” experience.
Front facing picture of a llama's head with a green pasture behind it
Your next Zoom colleague?
  • Have competitions around who can find the funniest work-appropriate video to share with everyone, and at the end of the week have a Zoom party where the winner is presented with a virtual prize.
  • Take a note from Liana Lewis’ team at Logic 20/20, and schedule themed team lunches on a shared calendar: “We schedule team lunches and meet up on Zoom, sometimes with themes. We make a point of taking that hour as a mental break from focusing on work, similar to what you would get if you stepped out of the office with coworkers in a normal setting. Similar to happy hours, sometimes they’ll be “vacation” themed, so people will wear a fun hat or shirt from a vacation or folks will change their virtual background to a place they’ve been or would love to go. That becomes a great conversation starter and usually carries us through the first half of lunch,” said Lewis.

Have Fun at Work with Self-Care

This may not seem overtly fun but self-care breaks can do wonders for your attitude, ease tension, and put you in a more positive frame of mind. After all, we also know that exercise promotes creativity and that activities like meditation release endorphins, the brain chemical responsible for feelings of happiness. The goal here is happiness while working from home; “having fun” is just one of several ways to achieve that goal.

  • Schedule short breaks throughout your day for exercise. Teams can even decide to synchronize stretch breaks and take them together. For instance, did you often take coffee breaks and walk to the Starbucks across the road with other team-members before you had to work from home? Break out the bluetooth headsets so you can do these walk-and-talks from your respective neighborhoods, as you make coffee at home or walk to a nearby coffee stand.
  • Practice Mindfulness. Mindfulness is the act of bringing yourself to the present moment, which also happens to be one of the 7 principles for great collaboration. A study from Harvard Medical School Neuroscientist Sara Lazar also found that meditation and mindfulness may be key in heightening our ability to enjoy things. I’ve actually been a part of a design team that began every weekly team meeting with a guided meditation and it was fantastic!
  • Add in a chance to celebrate hard work with a live music performance. A 2013 study in the Journal of Positive Psychology found that people who listened to upbeat music could improve their moods and boost their happiness in just two weeks. Music2Meeting offers three different options for bringing live music performances to your teams—either immediately following a meeting, during an after-work happy hour, or as part of their Music for Team-Building facilitation offering.

Have Fun at Work By Giving Employees What They Want

Arguably the quickest way to create more fun for employees and coworkers is to ask them what they want and give it to them. Of course, you may not always be able to deliver, but just asking and trying to meet their desires can go a long way. Here are some things employees really want.

  • Give employees meaningful work. Employees who find work highly meaningful are 69% less likely to plan on quitting their jobs within the next 6 months, and have job tenures that are 7.4 months longer on average than employees who find work lacking in meaning. Creating shared goals for projects, encouraging employees to bond and support each other, and providing employees with work that supports their professional growth are all ways to create more meaning for employees. Be intentional about making employees feel intimately connected to the greater goals and impact of their work. In our informal poll of people, the most common responses to “How are you having fun at work right now” were about people simply loving the work they are doing.
  • Encourage employees to try something new. Spending our time on new work—like using new processes, working in new sectors, or providing the opportunity to work with fresh clients— can create pockets of joy for employees during the era of work from home. As Doctor Alex Lickerman, Founder and CEO of ImagineMD, says, “Trying something new opens up the possibility for you to enjoy something new.” Good thing this is easily done in a pandemic that demands that we and our businesses adapt to new client needs, new employee routines, and new technology. As Rebecca Posey, a Business and Human Rights Services Program Lead at Control Union, says, the virtual nature of her client work right now has required her to learn new skills and teach them to others, leading to more innovative projects. “All these things are fun,” she said.

  • Planning no-meeting days to preserve time when people can take a rest from video and phone calls is another great way to rejuvenate and prime people for fun. After all, prolonged screen time has been cited to cause low mood.
Screen Shot 2020 08 22 at 7.48.45 PM 2

  • Create time for rest. The world is loud and busy right now—and many people are so overwhelmed they’re unable to enjoy even the simplest of pleasures. Plus, the average work day has increased by 48.5 minutes during quarantine. Encouraging employees to use their vacation time and take time off can really help them come back with a more positive attitude and keep them healthy. As Aparna Rae, Impact Strategist for Moving Beyond, says, “Ultimately, it would be fun to actually just enjoy summer instead of being in calls/meetings.” 

Keep in mind, having fun at work right now is downright challenging. So, be gentle on yourself and if, in trying some of these ideas, you or your employees still don’t feel very spirited try and keep an open mind. If all else fails, you can just add a little random silliness in your internal emails like Taylor Schrang Ready, an associate at Mark Cuban Companies.

“I wrote ‘Demon Goat Robot’ in an email the other day. That was fun,” says Ready.

As always, if you need help having fun at work while working remotely during these trying times, Mindhatch offers remotely-facilitated experiences that can encourage productive fun. 

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Want help bringing fun into your workplace?
Coonoor Behal
written by

Coonoor Behal

Coonoor Behal is Founder & CEO of Mindhatch, and an experienced and recognized business strategy and innovation consultant with focused expertise in design thinking, improvisation, and innovation facilitation.

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