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Why Creating a Fun Work Environment Motivates Workers and Boosts Productivity

By Dr. Marie Gould Harper
Program Director, Management

These days, there is much discussion about employee motivation, turnover and job satisfaction. Although it is not the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers are having a good time, an employee’s mindset is a factor in job performance and productivity.

Employers now recognize that their employees’ frame of mind is an important topic for discussion. However, there are varying opinions on what should be done to motivate the workforce. For example, George Dickson, who manages content and community at employee advocacy website Bonusly, offers “20 Simple Ways to Increase Motivation in the Workplace.”

Also, Sherrie Scott of the Houston Chronicle writes, “Public recognition is also a motivating factor that drives worker productivity.”

Employees Often Perceive Jobs as Boring or Repetitive

If you remember the 1981 Dunkin’ Donuts comic ad about “time to make the donuts,” you will see a negative depiction of work. This ad focuses on Fred the Baker, who wakes up early, still half asleep, and prepares to go to work at a repetitive job because “it’s time to make the donuts.”

In this commercial, work is not seen as exciting and fun. Rather, it appears to be a depressing, repetitive chore that Fred the Baker has to do.

What’s the Problem with Employees’ Mindsets?

If a person is being paid and an organization is getting the services it needs, what exactly is the problem?

Workers doing repetitive, mindless work with no enjoyment can lead to a number of negative factors. There is a correlation between employee boredom and drug use.

For example, some companies underestimate the influence of drugs in their workplace. Approximately 9.7 million Americans use marijuana and 1.9 million use cocaine. Almost eight out of 10 (77%) Americans 18 years or older who use illicit drugs are employed full-time or part-time. (I actually had an employee tell me that he used drugs just to get through the day.)

Just as we have functional alcoholics in the workplace, the number of employees using alcohol or some form of drugs to make it through the day is on the rise.

How Can We Combat the Troubling Trend of Drug Use?

Although government studies do not cite the exact reasons why employees elect to use drugs (i.e., drug use could be related to non-workplace issues), employers can attempt to alter the work environment to provide a healthier alternative to drug use.

Work is a serious matter, but creating a “drill sergeant” environment doesn’t necessarily increase productivity. Studies over the past two decades show that having fun on the job creates a happier work environment with satisfied employees. These studies show how implementing “fun” activities can enhance motivation, increase productivity and job satisfaction, reduce stress and improve task performance.

I love to laugh. I find that I am happier when I have a good chuckle and see the humor in a situation. Dr. Norman Cousins, a long-time editor of the Saturday Review and a global peacemaker, reported how children laugh on average 400 times a day, but that number drops to about 15 times a day by the time a person reaches the age of 35.

Why is this fun fact important? Laughter releases endorphins – a chemical 10 times more powerful than the pain-relieving drug morphine – into the body with the same exhilarating effect as strenuous exercise.

In addition, laughing increases oxygen intake, replenishing and invigorating cells. Laughter even increases one’s pain threshold, boosts the immune system and relieves stress. What a wonderful substitute for drugs to get through the day!

If you are a “doubter” on the ability of laughter being healthy for the soul, let’s look at the journey of Dr. Patch Adams, a medical doctor and a peace activist. Due to personal experiences during his childhood, Patch made a decision that he was going to be happy early in his life. He was hospitalized a number of times during his childhood due to violence.

However, during the last hospital stay, he decided to make a difference by going to medical school. His work with hospitals and the healthcare system is well documented.

However, what makes him unique is how he has integrated “clown” activities into his prescription for a long healthy and happy life. He has created 50 presentations and visited approximately 70 countries with his clown trips.

What Can You Do to Bring Fun into Your Workplace?

Nationally known motivational speaker Jody Urquhart created a list of 13 steps for creating a fun work environment. If you are interested in your workplace becoming a happier, more fun-filled environment, consider reviewing Urquhart’s 13 steps and creating a process that makes sense for your organization.

Having fun brings us together. Fun can also open authentic lines of communication as well as foster mutual respect for co-workers. Energize your workplace by creating a culture of fun.

About the Author

Dr. Marie Gould Harper is the Program Director of Management. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from Wellesley College, a master’s degree in instructional systems from Pennsylvania State University and a doctorate in business from Capella University. She is a progressive coach, facilitator, writer, strategist and human resources/organizational development professional with more than 30 years of leadership, project management, and administrative experience. Dr. Gould Harper has worked in both corporate and academic environments.

Dr. Gould Harper is an innovative thinker and strong leader, manifesting people skills, a methodical approach to problems, organizational vision and ability to inspire followers. She is committed to continuous improvement in organizational effectiveness and human capital development, customer service and the development of future leaders.

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