Why It's Important to Have Fun in The Workplace
Improving your company culture might be the best thing for your bottom line
Promoting a positive company culture can be an elusive concept to master. For business owners with their minds on the bottom line, consciously nourishing a sense of fun and camaraderie in the workplace might not always seem worthy of a spot at the top of their to-do list.
In the 850 region, however, several companies have taken a different view on office fun. According to Karen Moore, founder and CEO of Moore Communications Group in Tallahassee, the realities of being a successful place of business and a fun place to work don’t have to be mutually exclusive.
“You can be successful and fast growing and at the same time have a great corporate culture that’s valued by all members of the team,” said Moore, whose nationally recognized company also has offices in Denver, New Orleans and West Palm.
Around Tallahassee, Moore’s company is known as one such place. With staffers staying upwards of 20-plus years, the retention rate is at an all-time high.
“We don’t focus specifically on having fun as an event,” explained Moore. “We have it embedded in our culture. Our culture is about teamwork. We ask ourselves how can we provide the best customer service with excellent quality of work and have an atmosphere where every single person feels deeply valued and appreciated.”
When it comes to day-to-day operations, that mission can translate into after-hours margaritas on the company’s back porch or surprise field trips to the movies and Tallahassee Museum. In addition, each of the four offices closes for a week during the holidays — a move that employees love.
“It just gives you a chance at the end of the year to take a step back for a job well done, spend time with your family and come back ready to go,” said Emily Read, a senior director at Moore and a six-year veteran of the company. “It’s special. This is the first company that I’ve worked for that has a benefit like that.”
Oh, and everyone can bring their dog to work with them, too.
At Naumann Group Real Estate Inc., office-sanctioned fun is seen similarly. And often.
“I joke that if we ever have an agent disagreement, we settle it on the Pac-Man machine,” said Jason Naumann, the company’s founder and owner. With offices in Leon, Walton and Franklin counties, the Naumann Group serves almost the entirety of Northwest Florida.
“Obviously I have a Type A personality as do many people who are in our sales division,” said Naumann, with a laugh. “So we literally have a half basketball court. And that’s just for people to go into, have a little fun, blow off steam and break away from the office a little bit.”
In addition to the basketball court and arcade (which is equipped with 25 variations of retro video games), the company’s headquarters also features walking workstations and frequent chili cook-offs.
For industry experts including Florida State University Management professor, Wayne Hochwarter, actions like Moore’s and Naumann’s have been proven to have a profound impact on a company’s overall profitability.
“I think there’s pretty good evidence that companies who provide people with a respite away from work — whether that’s rest or leisure — their health care benefits end up being a little cheaper, their turnover is better and people don’t see work as exhausting and a grind, or something they just have to get through,” said Hochwarter, who holds a doctorate in organizational business,
“At some point what we’re really getting at is the bottom line, which is job performance. It’s been shown time and time again that (office culture) has a pretty significant impact on that as well.”
Happy workers may be nicer to have around, but they’re also less prone to stress-induced health issues, like heart disease, stomach ulcers and depression. According to Hochwarter, who teaches a class at FSU specifically on “office fun,” happier workers can certainly equal healthier ones.
“There’s a lot of other benefits, too,” said Hochwarter. “It’s good for the brain. It’s good for serotonin. It’s good for endorphins. It’s good for creativity. It’s good for a lot of things. And, it makes people feel like they’re not just worker bees.”
Added Naumann, “Sitting at a desk all day gets very monotonous. I’ve found that when they’re moving around, and they’ve got a change of pace to keep the blood circulating, everyone seems to be in a better mood and more productive.”
For Amanda Handley, a Tallahassee-based communications strategist at BowStern Marketing and Communications, making a human connection with an employer is an important factor in her job satisfaction. So when the founders of BowStern — Tom Derzypolski and Kelly Robertson — opened the doors to their new campus last March to reveal they’d added an onsite nursery, she knew she’d been working at the right place.
“We get to go into the nursery and eat lunch with our kids every day,” said Handley. “That’s huge. But there’s also a group of five or six other people who come in and sit and eat lunch with the babies, too. They laugh, they enjoy the kids, they teach them how to take selfies.”
The new BowStern headquarters, located just east of Interstate 10 on Mahan Drive, saw a few other impressive upgrades as well — a putting green and a conference room decked out in just the right amount of nautical décor. Monthly “Lunch & Learns” were also added to the company’s schedule, as well as a quarterly field trip or two.
“They work hard to help us play hard,” said Handley. “At the end of the month we’ll be doing a tour of Grasslands Brewery on Friday afternoon. It’s nice to get out of the office sometimes.”
Experts caution that not all activities are created equally, and that when trying to improve a company’s overall culture, it’s better to take small steps every day than to pass down a ruling of mandatory fun.
“The last thing you want people to do is think it’s a half-hearted attempt,” cautioned Hochwarter. “It should be a seamless part of organizational life. It’s not ‘OK, the third Thursday of every month with an ‘R’ we’re going to have a water balloon contest.’ It’s got to be a part of things more than just something that sticks out.”
Top 10 Office Distractions
It isn’t easy keeping 200-plus employees happy. But rumor has it AppRiver — a Gulf Breeze-based technology company — manages to do exactly that. The trick? Communication. “Most of the ideas for AppRiver events or sponsored teams come directly from Appers — AppRiver’s employees — themselves,” said Kristy McDaniel, the company’s public relations specialist, “so feedback has been extremely positive. They seem to like two things most: food and fun.”
1. Walking Desks: Experts agree that staying active throughout the day plays a huge role in staying alert. In an office setting, a few walking or peddling desks can make all the difference.
2. Lunch & Learns: Whether it’s bringing in an expert or relying on the experts in your office, learning (and lunching) together can boost morale.
3. Field Trips: A change of pace is good for everyone. Close early on Wednesday and go to the movies, the museum or even the mall.
4. Incentives: Friendly competition never hurts. For sales departments in particular, the chance to earn an end of the year, all-expense paid weekend to Vegas just might give them the extra push they need.
5. Holiday Leave: Nothing shows you care like respecting the importance of family time.
6. On-site Nursery: And speaking of family time, don’t forget about the youngest members.
7. Pet Policy: Having a designated pet day or an open door policy for four-legged friends tells staff members you know their life is about being more than just an employee.
8. Games: From in-office video arcades to basketball courts and fantasy football leagues, it’s good to play.
9. Potlucks: Group gatherings like potlucks don’t have to be reserved for the holidays. This year, start summer right with a chili cook-off to see which staffer has the best recipe.
10. Happy Hours: Toast the team’s success after hours.