Earlier this month I visited a friend and former colleague. She’s a successful leader who recently relocated as part of a cross-country move. Like other thriving professionals, she is motivated, productive, collaborative, and fulfilled. But, if I had to name a single defining characteristic of her success, it would be her propensity to have fun. Through humor, play, and positive thinking she brings levity to the most mundane and miserable moments.
Now, “go have fun” may sound like a simplistic approach to professional success, but consider these points:
- People perform better when they are enjoying themselves.
- A playful perspective opens up possibilities and stimulates creativity.
- Happiness hormones increase memory function and motivation.
- Exuding joy energizes and inspires those around us.
- Workplace fun can reduce stress, fatigue, and boredom.
Here are some approaches to fun that have helped me or my clients be successful:
Switch it up
Novelty is fun. Changing the time, place, or way you do something can be enough to make it more enjoyable. Dim the lights, go to the office when it’s empty, sit on the floor, write in multi-colored pens.
If you’ve ever flown on Southwest Airlines, you’ve probably experienced the positive impact that a little humor can have in an industry that is remarkably serious and tense. Southwest’s flight crew demonstrates that being funny can make the passenger experience more enjoyable—without sacrificing safety or efficiency. In fact, research suggests humor contributes to stronger cultures, higher creativity, and better negotiations.
Break a sweat
Adding physical activity to your day is a healthy way to release endorphins and increase joy. Turning a sitting meeting into a walking one, taking a break to hit golf balls, or listening to your favorite podcast while riding a stationary bike are great ways to be active while working.
Make it a party
Even the most un-fun tasks can be livened up. Papers to collate? Make it a race. An event to debrief? Turn it into a casual dinner. Chores to do? Pick out music and have a “cleaning party”. (While never eliciting excitement from my kids, this approach conveyed my commitment to make cleaning suck less and helped them keep a good attitude.)
Spread the joy
The enjoyment and benefits of having fun can multiply when shared with others. In fact, research shows that teams who engage in play together may experience increased trust, a sense of solidarity, a friendlier work atmosphere, and higher employee commitment to work, among other impacts.
Keep in mind that this post is about intentionally including fun in your work for the purpose of enhancing your success. If your enjoyment efforts hinder your professional goals, you are probably having too much fun to consider it work.
How to thrive: Conduct a fun-audit. Identify an area of your professional life where you have the potential to be more engaged, happy, and productive. Incorporate one of the strategies above. And have fun!