Work can be stressful under the best of circumstances, and the Covid-19 pandemic has taken it to a whole new level. Workplace stress has real consequences on everything from higher health-care spending to a greater risk of work-related accidents. A high-pressure work environment can also lower employee engagement and drag down productivity. Fortunately, injecting a bit of fun into the workday can lead to a more-positive work culture, help employees thrive and increase their productivity. Here’s what you need to know.
Benefits of employee engagement
A fun and productive workspace can dramatically boost employee engagement. In addition to being good for your workers’ physical and mental health, effective employee engagement can deliver trickle-down benefits for the whole company, including:
- Better communication. Stressed-out employees are often reluctant to talk, either to you or to one another. People who are relaxed and invested in their work feel freer to share their thoughts.
- Stronger teamwork. A positive work culture encourages collaboration. Engaged employees are more likely to bring good ideas to the table, discuss them openly and make smart decisions.
- Enhanced creativity. No one is at their creative best when they’re overly stressed. Boosting employee engagement will help your team members develop and express their creative thoughts.
- More productive employees. Happily engaged employees are more likely to give their best at work. And they’re in the optimal condition to work both smarter and harder. This can translate into a dramatic rise in productivity.
How to create a fun but productive work environment
Creating a fun and productive workspace can be a little trickier than it seems. Follow these tips to improve your odds for success.
Trade “forced fun” for organized fun
Your team members are individuals with different personalities and interests. Take this into account when you plan group activities. Look for things that allow your extroverts to grab the spotlight while gently encouraging your introverts to get involved. Even more importantly, don’t force anyone to participate in an activity that makes them feel uncomfortable.
Foster a positive environment
Don’t rely solely on your “fun activities” to turn around a toxic work culture. Inject positivity throughout your organization. Open the lines of communication, praise accomplishments, model strong conflict-resolution skills and celebrate milestones. Your employees won’t feel like having fun until they feel comfortable and supported, which comes from building trust.
Encourage quick, fun breaks
Help your employees divide up their workday with short breaks for fun. Exactly how to implement this depends on your workplace setup and your own personality. Maybe you share a funny (but appropriate!) GIF or video once a day, gather everyone together for a quick nature walk or set up a scavenger hunt for employees to work on throughout the week.
Breaking bread is a time-honored tradition for bringing people closer together. Schedule (and pay for!) team lunches periodically. Skip the shop talk and be ready with some fun conversation starters that help everyone get to know one another.
Team-building options run the gamut from conference-room icebreakers to offsite escape rooms. Choose things that get everyone to participate at the level with which they’re comfortable, and encourage good-natured and sportsmanlike rivalries. Be careful not to let competitiveness go too far, though, or it could have negative consequences.
Choose your own adventure
Letting your employees choose their own activities can be a powerful way to boost engagement. You’ll need to vet their ideas to make sure they’re feasible and appropriate, but when possible, say yes. They will feel both validated and excited to get started.
Create challenges and embrace gamification
Having a hard time getting people to update their status reports? Almost everything’s more fun when you turn it into a game. Use tools such as Slack Pointagram to inject game mechanics into mundane tasks. Collecting points, earning badges and winning trophies can dramatically boost participation as you surreptitiously boost compliance.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been brutal, and employees are exhausted and overwhelmed. Layered on top of existing workplace stress, it’s no wonder that employee engagement is dropping at many companies. Fortunately, you can take easy steps to inject some fun into the workplace and develop a healthy, positive work culture.