'No fun 'til it's done.' That’s what my mother used to say. Well, words to that effect. “You can’t go out until you’ve cleaned your room"; “No dessert ‘til you’ve eaten your veges”; “if you don’t finish your homework, you won’t go to the party". You get the point. It’s a simple 'work first, play later' incentive strategy. And it works. But here’s why I think fun works better.
Fun creates energy.
Fun is more fun than no fun. That’s obvious, but it’s also true. I’ve worked open plan and in nice little offices. And there’s always a buzz in those open plan areas. People share ideas, ask questions, laugh at each other’s jokes and have fun. When you sit in an office, you just get on with it. So you might think that ‘office productivity’ is higher than open plan. But it certainly isn’t for me. Fun creates energy that helps me work (and earphones help when it’s noisy)
Fun solves problems.
It goes without saying that if you’re having fun with someone it’s much harder to fall out with them. But this isn’t an HR point. It’s about bashing things around, chatting it over, grabbing two minutes in a corridor or five at the end of the day, and getting stuff done. If the spirit of a problem is a mutual puzzle, solutions are always easier to find. Because puzzles are something people do for fun.
Fun does better work.
When much of what we do is “creative”, fun is essential. I was at a brainstorm one time and we were split into two groups. One was all scratchy-heady, work-really-hard about it. The other had fun. They laughed, they joked, they ignored the rules and they didn’t come up with half as many ideas. But when everyone voted on their favourites, the fun team ‘won’ hands down.
Fun saves money.
Efficiency, productivity, creativity ... if you follow the line down all the “-ivities” it’s obvious that fun saves money. But it’s more fundamental than that. People will work harder, stay longer and do more when they’re having fun. Even salaries are reflective of fun. Why would you cross the road for more money if you’re too busy where you are, having fun?
It’s as simple as that. We come to work, we do our thing and we aim for excellence. But it’s the stuff that happens around it that makes the magic: the drinks, the chats the arguments, the randomness. If you think back to your best ideas, your left-field thoughts, your stroke of genius that made everyone say “where the hell did that come from?”, chances are it happened in a moment of fun.
So I think my mother was wrong (sorry mum). Because I have no doubt—especially in our business—that you can’t begin to get it done if you’re not having fun.
That’s what I reckon. What do you think?
- Michael Goldthorpe runs a growing strategic and creative agency called Hunch. He's a big fan of fun.