How much fun should one have at work?

Schumpeter at The Economist takes a look at the idea of having fun at work:

ONE of the many pleasures of watching “Mad Men”, a television drama about the advertising industry in the early 1960s, is examining the ways in which office life has changed over the years. One obvious change makes people feel good about themselves: they no longer treat women as second-class citizens. But the other obvious change makes them feel a bit more uneasy: they have lost the art of enjoying themselves at work…

This cult of fun is driven by three of the most popular management fads of the moment: empowerment, engagement and creativity. Many companies pride themselves on devolving power to front-line workers. But surveys show that only 20% of workers are “fully engaged with their job”. Even fewer are creative. Managers hope that “fun” will magically make workers more engaged and creative. But the problem is that as soon as fun becomes part of a corporate strategy it ceases to be fun and becomes its opposite—at best an empty shell and at worst a tiresome imposition.

A good point: forced “fun” is hardly fun at all.

A question: what really makes work satisfying for people? Having fun? Collegial relationships? Meaningful tasks? Praise from bosses and higher-ups?

Another question: what can’t this “fun time” at work be left up to the employee’s discretion? One might prefer a half hour to quietly read a book while another might prefer a volleyball game. While this means managers may not be able to rave about how their group came together in an activity, it might provide even higher levels of productivity.

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