You Can Be Serious Without a Suit

I had a conversation with a friend who recently helped set up a new furniture retail store on behalf of his employer. It was a labor-intensive job that called for all-hands-on-deck. It required everyone to chip in and do things outside their "normal" job description, which could be cause for resistance by some. Fortunately, everyone eagerly jumped in. The point of the story, however, wasn't so much about their cooperation, as it was about the fun they had. They had music playing in the background, and some sang along, while others just joked and laughed. "It was so much fun," he said, "It didn't feel like work."

His story reminded me of a time when I was recording a web seminar with a friend/colleague. We were cuttin' up and havin' a good time, accentuating our Southern drawls and sharing "what if ... " stories. At the time, I commented that if anyone walked in on us, they would think we weren't working, because we were having too much fun.

Which leads me to this question:

Do people have the general opinion that work can't be fun? If you laugh too much at work, does it mean you aren't working hard enough? Google seems to think having fun is necessary. As a matter of fact, the title of this blog, "You Can Be Serious Without a Suit," is #9 on Google's list of "Ten things Google has found to be true." An excerpt from their website is as follows: Google's founders have often stated that the company is not serious about anything but search. They built a company around the idea that work should be challenging and the challenge should be fun. To that end, Google's culture is unlike any in corporate America, and it's not because of the ubiquitous lava lamps and large rubber balls, or the fact that the company's chef used to cook for the Grateful Dead. In the same way Google puts users first when it comes to our online service, Google Inc. puts employees first when it comes to daily life in all of our offices."

Do you think we (as a society) are conditioned to feel a sense of guilt when we have too much fun at work ... like if it feels good it must be bad? And, we certainly wouldn't want to get caught. We generally agree that engaged employees are more productive, right? Aren't employees who have fun more engaged? (I know this is another "which came first ... " scenario ... do engaged employees have more fun ... or are employees who have fun more engaged ... and, is there necessarily a direct correlation between employees' fun factor and their level of productivity???) What do you think? Should companies encourage fun? If so, could it get out of hand? Will we then have to establish "Fun Rules" or policies to ensure that people manage their fun appropriately? Would that just take all the fun out of it?

Darci Riesenhuber posted this on November 6, 2007, in Talent.
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