We pride ourselves on having a great place to work and people often hear me comment on the importance of “breaking the fun meter.” Then, the pandemic hit. Like many, our workforce went remote and we faced a series of restrictions. It has left leaders nationwide to wrestle with how do you create a fun workplace without the workplace?
Currently, we don’t all have a physical space where we can gather and naturally infuse fun into the work day as we were accustomed to. It has meant managers and supervisors need to take on bigger roles as connectors, communicators, motivators, coaches, entertainers and event planners. Every team member has a role to play in bringing the fun to the work environment. Here’s what we’re learning:
- Be intentional with one-on-one time.
This may be the most important step we take and we need to make more time for it. We’re now over six months into the remote workforce and I know many people enjoy the flexibility of working from home. But that also can bring added stress and a disconnect from co-workers. The regular check-ins with direct reports (and as team members) have never been more important. It’s a way to stay connected professionally and personally. Don’t make it all about work. Be a good conversationalist and use this as an opportunity to have a little fun, too.
- Get creative, even a little quirky.
You have the freedom to try something unusual. The results may surprise you. One of our teams recently held virtual bingo and invited our executives to participate. A large crew got engaged and seemed to have fun. There are thousands of virtual team building activities to choose from. Don’t fret. Just try something. While they may not all work as planned, they will show you’re making an effort. Let your team members take turns planning. The soft stuff goes a long way. Keep doing it.
- Reimagine the routine.
Every year, our team members participate in a 5K run. They look forward to it for weeks — not because they all are stellar runners, but because they get to enjoy an activity together and always make it a lot of fun. So, this year, we took the 5K virtual and had high participation. While it wasn’t the same as gathering on the race course, it brought some normalcy during a time when we sought it. Don’t say “we’ll just wait for next year,” which would be the easy thing to do. Find new ways to do them now.
- Elevate your recognition efforts.
Make it personal. We all have to work harder (not just as leaders) to give people pats on the back and celebrate successes from afar. Pick up the phone, handwrite notes, do shout-outs at your meetings, develop contests or create a traveling trophy to infuse fun in the process. Take five minutes to do this every day. This could make someone’s week.
- Choose face-to-face.
We connect differently when we see each other’s faces. Turn on your video in meetings and seek to personally connect with the people participating. While email or phone may be easier, take the extra time to connect over video or, when possible, in person. Having lunch or coffee with someone or meeting outdoors feels more special today given the circumstances. Take the extra step to invite someone to connect face-to-face, whether it is virtual or in person.
Having fun at the workplace is harder than it used to be. We have to keep thinking of new ways to bring fun into this virtual environment.
As leaders, we need to do a really good job at this and recognize it is a way we keep good people. It’s time for all of us to have more fun at work. What can you do in the next week to break the fun meter?
Having meaningful work makes a difference. That's why we've been using technology to minimize mundane work so employees can focus on high-touch interactions. Learn more in the latest episode of Let’s Tech podcast and watch for an upcoming episode on mental health in the workplace.