As the US economic crisis widens into a global concern, many companies today are finding work is no fun. Literally.
Wear proper attire. No joking or clowning allowed. Put your chin to the grindstone. If you must laugh, would the boss approve and is it appropriate?
Woe is us.
Well, folks,”lighten up” is the key advice advocated by the authors of a new business book, The Levity Effect, in which the argument is made that “fun is a serious business.” There is, as Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher point out, a “connection between the punch line and the bottom line.” Laugh it up at work and with certainty you will be -wait for it -“laughing all the way to the bank.” No, honestly.
Maybe up to now the gripping authority of human resources has built what seems like an insurmountable wall of red flags that rule out kidding, mockery, sarcasm or even anger into most workplaces. You are aware of the time and place rule: “The universally ignored law which dictates that before any workplace humour is executed, its bearer must determine, using reasonably sound judgment, if said humour is appropriate.”
The book offers an intriguing amount of evidence to back its assertion that levity pays: “Fun at work,” Gostick and Christopher explain, “can provide a competitive advantage, help attract and retain employees, and provide the spark to jump-start creativity.” Furthermore, they write, a fun workplace “improves communication and morale, raises the level of employee trust, lowers employee turnover and increases profits.”
The authors write of an organization called the Great Place to Work Institute that has found time and again that companies which are classified as “great” earn extraordinarily top marks from employees on the question, “Are you working in a fun environment?” Great companies scored 81% on this, compared to 62% for companies ranked just “good.”
An Ipsos study suggests that those managers with a high sense of humour are likely to be around a year later as opposed to those rated with an average or below average sense of humour by a margin of almost 15%.
Google offers its employees free food, scooters, volleyball courts, a toy dinosaur and a yellow brick road. Among the other top 10 ranked are Starbucks, the Container Store, and Nugget Market, a California grocery store.
The fun strategies employed are as varied as the companies themselves.
Intuit has a “fun committee” that organizes events such as potluck breakfasts and jeopardy games. AstraZeneca has a “fun department” that brings “funsters” to the firm to sing, distribute toys and tell jokes. Another firm, which lists “fun” among its core values, hands-out “Walk the Talk” awards, a set of wind-up chattering teeth presented by the chief executive accompanied by a kazoo band. KPMG holds online contests for staff (with great prizes), and gives away barbecue packs.
The authors are convinced that bosses can learn to be blithe without coddling in the fake friendliness of the boss as displayed on the hit TV show, The Office. The best bet, they suggest, may be to hire people with a sense of humour. That was the philosophy of Herb Kelleher, the legendary boss of Southwest Airlines, an airline that is reportedly an actual a pleasure to fly. The authors noted the story of one of Kelleher’s staff delivering one of the most unusual and judicious lines in the book,”We’re sorry for the delay, but our automated bag smasher is broken and we are having to break your bags by hand.”
It might even be a good strategy to let your staff use YouTube during office hours, if it helps lighten things up.
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