There’s no reason why your workday can't be fun.
In 2021, author and researcher Bob Nelson, PhD, wanted to know what really makes a fun work environment. Is it the camaraderie? The projects? He and co-author Mario Tomayo decided to dig into the companies that are rated among the best places to work.
They discovered that those places that regularly land at the top of the list are often described as a “fun” place for employment.
“We found that while there are certain aspects of any job that are outside of our control, there are a number of things any employee can do to make work feel more fun and joyful. The biggest challenge (and opportunity) our interviews divulged is that the definition of ‘fun’ varies widely from person to person, as do the techniques used to manifest it,” Nelson writes for the Harvard Business Review. “The good news? Most of the ideas that our respondents shared can be easily adopted by others.”
Your definition of fun really matters when making the best of your job. It may be different depending on whether you’re introverted, extroverted, enjoy leading projects, or going it alone. No matter where you fall on the spectrum of fun, you shouldn’t have to just endure the eight (or more) hours a day you’re working.
These strategies will make your job more fun for you and the people around you!
Getting caught in the cycle of completing tasks and moving on to the next can happen without you even realizing it – especially if you’re focused on crossing items off of your to-do list. But this is a recipe for stress and burnout (neither the foundation of a fun work environment).
It’s important to celebrate your wins, even if it’s just with a few of your coworkers, because it gives you something to look forward to after your accomplishment. Maybe it’s a promotion or submitting an important proposal. It can be easy to dismiss these accomplishments as just being part of the grind, but taking a minute to step back and acknowledge the hard work and payoff can be a reminder to keep going – and celebrating with the people who understand the work can make it even more enjoyable.
Change up your environment
Few of us have a new office everyday. Usually, we sit at the same seat, talk to the same people, stare at the same wall when we’re stuck on a problem. If this feels familiar, it’s time to seek out a new work spot – even if just for a few hours.
A coffee shop, cafeteria (anywhere with access to wifi, really) will do. There are lots of reasons why this can make your workday fun, but most importantly it gives you a fresh perspective. This can be particularly helpful when you need to think something through or need some brainstorming power.
“Albert Frazia, a chief human resources officer, said he sometimes goes ‘offsite’ to work or think something through,” Nelson explains. “When he lived in New York, his favorite location was Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan. The quiet beauty of nature served as a nice contrast to the city surroundings, and in the spring and summer, chairs and tables were set out on the lawn for visitors.”
Step away from the desk
Lacking fun at work might mean you’re spending too much time tied to your desk. You can learn a lot, and have some fun, when you mingle with your coworkers, chat with colleagues in other departments, and experience new things you wouldn’t otherwise.
Schedule a coffee with somebody in your office you look up to or strike up a conversation in the elevator on your afternoon walk. There are plenty of ways to find moments of fun throughout your day.
What’s even better is that these moments can turn into opportunities. Perhaps you meet somebody who can offer advice on a challenge you're experiencing or you might make a new friend. Putting yourself out there is sometimes difficult to do, but you can learn from the experience and maybe even enjoy it.
Invest in your co-workers
Maybe it’s a happy hour after work with a few of your colleagues or planning a retreat for everybody to grow a little bit closer to each other. Spending quality time together in a work environment or outside of it can help create a fun environment because of one important reason: you get to know those around you a little more. This builds trust and respect and helps teams bond.
Simple gestures, such as sending a congratulatory email or eating lunch together, can also be a good way to show others your gratitude and build comradery.
Break out the headphones
If all else fails, Nelson says it’s okay to crank up the tunes while you work.
“The secret to my having more fun at work is to have those precious little ear buds in and some good jazz music playing,” Sharon Jordan-Evans, an author, told Nelson.
It seems so simple, but creating an environment that’s enjoyable really helps make the work go by – especially if you’re doing a task that isn’t among your favorites.
We tend to think that fun at work is created by those around us or the people we work with, but it can be as simple as a good playlist and adding something you enjoy to the mix. Other ways to do this are preparing your favorite drink to enjoy while you work, or lighting a candle.
Nelson reminds us that we spend a lot of time at work — potentially 90,000 hours over the course of a lifetime – and so it should be a place where we can find moments of enjoyment and fun. The work may be hard some days, but a little imagination and effort can lead you to a better environment.
Written by Kara Mason