Remember the 90’s and early 2000’s when we were so worried about retaining our staff that most organizations tried to create cool, fun places to work? There were ping-pong tables, pac-man machines, free food, and bring your dog to work days. Oops, the financial crash of 2007-08 hit, and many of these perks went away or if they stayed, many people did not feel comfortable playing ping-pong when people had been laid off the month before.

Why am I writing about this? I have been noticing that most of the organizations I work with are doing well, working hard, having solid success but I see very little fun in the workplace. The engagement scores continue to decline in American workplaces and now almost 70% of managers feel disengaged! Yowsa, this means the staff below them are probably even more disengaged!!!

I can see some of you rolling your eyes already and saying we are so busy these days, who has time for fun in the workplace? Yep, you are probably right but if you do not take the time to create some time and space for fun, then you will continue to have a disengaged workforce. Guess what, your best talent will leave for greener pastures and the hope of a better workplace. Your medium to low performers will stay due to lack of options and a belief that it may not be great here but I also do not have to put out a maximum effort.

Ping-pong tables, free food and video games are not the answer either. I would encourage you to have a meeting with some of your key employees and ask them what would help them become a more engaged workplace. Ideas could range from: training to mentoring to potlucks. The important thing is that you listen and try a few ideas. After you try a few things, ask for more ideas and start to see if the ideas get more innovative and creative. Let the group try a few more things.  Next thing you know there should be some more smiles, laughter and maybe even some fun in the workplace. I would encourage you to try a few things and see what happens.

Here are a few of my favorite activities that I have participated in:

  • Scavenger hunts
  • Habitat for Humanity Work Days
  • Theme Days with Trivia—Ex. 1980’s theme, dress and trivia
  • Dinner for employees and their families; Senior management served in black tie or formal wear
  • Bowling
  • Jeopardy with the answers being facts about our customers
  • Ice Skating where only about 2 people knew how to skate!

Let me know about some fun ideas you have for you and your team! Remember to plan some fun at home too!!!