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Is Fun at work good for business?

on Friday, 07 September 2012. Posted in Teambuilding, Satisfaction At Work

Team having fun sized

Fun at work is often promoted as a tool to positively energise and motivate staff. However, what kind of fun at work is good for business? And, how is it best to promote fun at work? We take a look at the evidence.

What is fun at work?

In the dictionary fun is defined as a source of enjoyment or to behave playfully. It refers to something informal or not very serious. It can include elements of spontaneity, surprise and even playful subversion. Fun at work generally involves social activities such as light-hearted banter with colleagues, shared lunches, team-building sessions or events and social occasions.

Do employees want fun at work?

Some sociologists believe that workers seek more fun than ever before. And, published research suggests that people do seek fun at work

The ‘Unlimited/JRA NZ Best Places to Work Survey’ has generated some useful New Zealand data. The survey is an annual piece of research conducted since

2000. Each year since its inception, fun has shown up as one of the top five drivers of work-place engagement .

Does fun help business?

Certain studies show that fun at work can be advantageous to employees and business by promoting job satisfaction and worker retention. For instance:

  • A U.S. study of health care institutions found that people who experienced fun in the workplace had significantly higher job satisfaction and were also less emotionally exhausted by their work caring for others.
  • Another U.S. study found that certain work tasks can be experienced as playful for certain individuals. This appears likely to increase organizational involvement, and may additionally increase job satisfaction and a sense of competence and mastery in life.
  • An NZ study found that fun at work was important to most people in three different organisations, at all levels.

How does Fun at Work, Work Best??

Research shows that while staff can appreciate it and feel valued when managers attempt to promote fun at work, they can also feel ambivalent or resentful when they are not consulted in the process.

Tentative conclusions for how to best promote fun at work that can be drawn from these studies:

  1. Gain staff input into fun at work initiatives: Staff need to have a degree of ownership over a fun at work initiative, in order for it to work effectively.
  2. Utilise good management and organizational practices: Fun is complementary to other aspects of good organizational practice. These include management listening to staff, good communication between departments, opportunities to progress in the company and adequate remuneration.
  3. Build a trusting environment: Building an atmosphere of open communication, trust and mutual support allows employees to relax with their colleagues, which can enhance fun at work initiatives.

Conclusion – Harness staff satisfaction with fun at work!

It is possible to conclude that yes, fun at work can work! It can be beneficial to business by increasing organizational involvement, job satisfaction and reducing stress. However, to make fun at work initiatives effective it is important to find ways to encourage staff input, value staff and encourage a culture where people can feel relaxed, be themselves and get on with the job.


Kathryn Owler, Director of


Owler, K., Morrison, R. & B. Plester. 2010. ‘Does Fun Work? The Complexity of Promoting Fun at Work’, Journal of Management & Organisation, 16(3):338-352

Tips, training and resources

Staff training: Training for staff can motivating and help staff know that you care. Joyworkz offer a range of workplace wellness seminars such as Effective Strategies to Enjoy Your Work that assist staff to be healthy and happy at work.

A wellness programme: This has the added advantage of providing a workplace with an array of team building activities that are known to contribute to employee motivation and loyalty. If you need help getting started, consider Joyworkz SimplyWell™ package, which takes the stress out of designing a workplace wellness programme.

Fun at work books: There are a range of good books available on promoting fun in the workplace. David Hemsath and Leslie Yerkes are well known authors. Dr Kathryn Owler, director of Joyworkz and local author, has also written Fun at Work: A journey of acceptance, joy and true meaning, a refreshing read for anyone seeking more fun at and enjoyment at work.

Visual prompts: Visual prompts in the workplace can be useful. For instance, the free Alsco Heart Health Poster encourages staff to have a good laugh at work.

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