Back in the eighties, positively prehistoric for some of you, infusing fun into the workplace became a popular concept. In some way, the material coming out seemed way too contrived. After all, isn´t fun supposed to be spontaneous? If you plan it out, where´s the discovery? So now we´re in the mid-whatever-you-call-this-decade and I want to know: are we having fun yet? Many years ago, when I worked for a pr/ad agency in Rochester, NY, we had staff meetings that kept me laughing for hours. I don´t think they were meant to inspire such mirth, but they did mostly because of the repartee between two particular people, both talented, each enjoying their exchange probably more than anyone. Still, it was invigorating and motivating to see them go back and forth. I think it was the way they sort of poked fun, never at a client, but more at all of us. Somehow it worked.
Sometimes the easiest way to infuse fun into the workplace is to simply lighten up some. I wrote this little book a few years ago called Ice Cream for Breakfast: If You Follow All the Rules, You Miss Half the Fun (McGraw-Hill) and one of the main reasons for penning this title is that I, personally, needed to lighten up some. I was taking life way too seriously and as I imagined, writing the book really did help me make some decisions about how to improve my quality of life and minimize some of the stress. Take the title: something about eating ice cream. There is something about ice cream that brings out the kid in us. Even it´s just a spoonful, a taste of chocolate chip or Blue Moon can make the world a little nicer. It´s true that we need to take certain aspects, well, most really, of business seriously, like contracts and deadlines and good customer service. But if we take ourselves too seriously we can lose perspective. Plus, taking things too seriously can be exhausting!
When topsy-turvy world events converge with stress in the workplace maybe it´s time for a little fun and laughter but not the kind that you manufacture in a handbook. People tend to see through that stuff pretty quickly. But you can foster an environment that´s open to the lighter side of office life. Maybe there´s a cartoon that would be particularly appreciated, something you can post in the staff kitchen. Perhaps someone can pose a question at the next staff meeting about the worst thing going on a particular project, sort of a "Can you top this?" competition with prizes for all. Maybe someone could bring in some ice cream for breakfast and just see what happens. The inevitable pressures associated with deadlines, budget overruns, unreasonable customers, and all the other typical workday stressors can be overwhelming. Sometimes what´s needed is a little diffusion and humor can be the perfect answer or, at the very least, a temporary fix. On the other hand, something just plain out of the ordinary can have the same effect. You probably won´t find this in any training manual, but consider giving people a single rose, a daisy, a Hershey bar for goodness sake. Something that´s a little unusual. They may not laugh out loud, but your gesture could elicit a small smile.