Are we having fun yet? If not, then I haven’t done a very good job of sharing author and consultant Leslie Yerkes’s work on creating places where people love to work. In any case, here is the final part of my delightful interview with Yerkes, author of Fun Works: Creating Places Where People Love to Work (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc.):
Q: You dedicate your book to “all individuals who share their full selves every day through their work.” What do you mean here?
A: Though eleven companies are featured, I have met many individuals who are role models for fun/work fusion. Who find joy in their work and generously share it with their co-worker and customers. It is from these individuals that I learn and am inspired.
Q: I recall a company I worked for where some people were more fun than others. Indeed, two guys used to crack us up at the start of every staff meeting. They were funny. Is there a difference between fun and funny? What if the collective sense of humor isn’t really apparent somewhere? How can fun then be incorporated into the workplace?
A: Fun is not necessarily humor. It is finding joy, meaning and satisfaction in what you are doing. It is different for every individual. It is a life giving force. There are many clichés that illustrate how we have always strived to find the blend between work and play.
‘Whistle while you work.’
‘All work and no play make Jack a dull boy.’ And to me ‘dull’ is burned out.
I believe that finding the blend of work and fun takes great judgment and maturity. I would go as far as to say it is an essential competency of emotional intelligence.
Q: Can a very small start-up with just a few people have fun? If so, how?
A: Fun can be had in any organization, any size, any industry, any where. Just give it permission to emerge.
Q: Can you elaborate some on what you mean by principle one in your book, “Give Permission to Perform”?
A: You and I spend more time at work than we do at any other single activity. Often, our coworkers see more of us during the week than do our families. Many business owners, key executives, and professionals may not even see their young children outside of weekends or looking in on them while they are sleeping. Yet for all the time we spend in the work environment, our work experience is often not fun. Our life, it seems, suffers from a lack of integration of fun and work.
Fair or not, the pervading beliefs regarding fun and work fall into three large categories.
1. As a culture we believe that fun should be earned. That fun should exist only after the work is completed.
2. The hierarchies of many organizations seem to feel that fun is silly, superficial, and unprofessional.
3.The unspoken prime directive in culture after culture is that fun in the workplace is taboo.
The existence and continuation of these belief systems is the direct result and function of the culture of the organization. If a culture believes any of these three tenets to be true, then they are. And woe to any employee who laughs in their face. We must unleash the power of people by giving them permission to bring the best of their whole selves to work each day.
Q: In one chapter, you include information on Southwest Airlines. With air travel so chaotic these days, how can an airline possible be associated with fun?