How—and Why—to Inject Fun in Your Workplace

Written for EO by Heidi Reimer-Epp, CEO and co-founder of Botanical PaperWorks 

Maybe it was because it was winter. Or maybe it was because we’d recently lost a valued employee due to our organization being a little boring. Regardless of the reason, I knew we needed a way to make our workplace fun. I understood that I was risking losing other employees and decreasing productivity if we didn’t inject some energy and camaraderie into the office. As Stuart Brown, the author of Play, puts it, “when employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement and morale.”

That’s when I reached out to Kirsten Anderson, founder and CEO of Integrate Play Solutions.

Kirsten’s first assignment for me was to keep my eyes peeled for even the smallest opportunities to bring playfulness to work and assured me that the fun would follow. The holidays were coming up, so my team and I decided to have a Deck the Walls party. We brought in tons of decorations and, with hot chocolate in tow, everyone decked out their work spaces. It was incredible to see everyone’s creativity. We got into the holiday spirit, we laughed and we enjoyed ourselves. Fun? Check!

A while later, our customer support team was asked to help out in the assembly department. There was an order that required extra hands in order to meet the deadline. The department manager turned up the music and encouraged everyone to “whistle while they worked.” It was an enjoyable break from the typical workday, and everybody got a chance to loosen up and chat. As the manager later told me, what could have been a drag turned into an opportunity to get to know each other better and have fun at work.

After those two playful moments, however, we were stuck on what to do next. So Kirsten made us a killer list called “60 Ways to Have Fun at Work, Integrate Play and Playfulness.”

From her list, here are my top five favorite tips to boost fun at work:

  1. Wear costumes and bring props to events and trade shows.
  2. Organize DIY food stations with sundaes, pizzas or tacos.
  3. Have rotating employees DJ for the day, for an hour during the afternoon or at an event.
  4. Hold “show and tell,” just like in kindergarten. Ask everyone to bring an object that represents an interest outside of work and speak about it for a couple minutes each. This is an opportunity to learn about each other’s lives, form trust and build bridges between office and production.
  5. Host a “progressive dinner party” at work. Start in one part of the building, such as the upstairs offices, for drinks. Move somewhere else, like to the lobby, for appetizers. Then move to, say, the production floor for the main course. Finish by having dessert outside.

We’ve already implemented some of these ideas. At the Promotional Product Professionals of Canada (PPPC) convention, we set up a bee-themed photo booth and donated $2 to the Canadian Honey Council for every photo posted on social media. We now have taco potlucks on the regular. And our customer support team plays music every Friday afternoon.

I’m learning that we need to be intentional about creating a fun workplace environment, and that just like learning any new business skill, playfulness requires practice.

Here are the lessons that I’ve learned from this journey:

  • You don’t need a huge new initiative or a big splashy event to have fun.
  • Be inspired by the fun you have in other areas of your life.
  • When you start looking for fun, you find it.

We’re still coming up with ways to integrate more play into the day at my company, but I can already say that these bursts of fun make for a vastly improved work environment.

Heidi Reimer-Epp, CEO and co-founder of Botanical PaperWorks has been an EO Winnipeg member since 2008.

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