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Managing People: Have Some Fun

We look at the positive impact that enjoying work has on people's wellbeing and company performance, and offer tips on how to have fun - minus the bad jokes…

No David Brent please

Having fun at work. To many of us the mere phrase strikes fear into our hearts as we recall tense lunches, 'fun days' spent making small talk with the CEO's wife, and forced team hilarity.

Life coach Karen Williams explains that post 'The Office' most of us equate this kind of 'pre-packaged' fun to having our teeth pulled. She explains: “Frankly, most of us don't associate work with fun. It's not the pub, or our family and friends and certainly not a holiday – its what we do to pay the bills. Sure, many of us are interested and proud of what we do, but being at work still means being away from home for long periods, often after a tiring commute, and then there's the client delivery, the internal politics, the e-mails and never-ending meetings. We're pretty up to our necks, so when our employers tell us that on top of all this they are determined we are going to 'have some fun' – our heckles rise immediately.”

Sharing common experiences

Karen continues: “Having fun at work is far less about playing It's a Knockout in once a year or dragging the karaoke out, and more about just having a laugh with colleagues. If you have a common activity or things to regularly bitch or chuckle about, people develop a natural banter and their own in-jokes. And it's that kind of rapport that keeps people smiling and staying in jobs for. Of course money, promotion and all those things matter, but not as much as you might think. Ask people why they stay in a job, and their first reason is normally the people.”

So, forward thinking businesses are ditching the formal approach to fun and are instead making sure their teams have plenty of opportunity to develop a banter and share experiences.

Founder of programme and project management firm Moorhouse, Dom Moorhouse is one of them.

Dom tells: “I cringe when I hear the term 'fun at work' but injecting some humour and light heartedness to what we do is essential.

“The management consultancy industry can be pompous and there are a lot of people who take themselves extremely seriously. When I began Moorhouse I was determined to behave in the opposite way. We take the work we do with our clients very seriously – but not ourselves.

“We're all human – we all have other lives, partners, children, holidays, interests – and if anyone even begins to become a bit earnest about what we do they are quickly brought back down to earth with a bump!

“I think a down to earth approach actually helps us get our heads down and focus on what's important – the client and delivery.”

Dom is a big believer in using humour to overcome adversity and build bridges between people at work. As a former Royal Marines Officer, he reflects on his time in the services as an experience where “we used a lot of humour to get us through difficult situations. It works in consulting too. However, it's clearly a bit more difficult to get people chuckling and bonding over a project management tool or a spreadsheet … so you have to make the effort to give people other opportunities to have some humour.”

“We organise monthly 'surprise event' socials, the whole company goes away together for a few days every quarter and once a year we take five days out overseas. We use about 50% of that time to socialise and 50% to share our experiences on different projects. People can work largely alone or away in consulting, so its really important to plug back in to base, remember what its all about, and relax with your colleagues who can help, advise or just empathise.”
It's the 'away' times that lack the rigidity and grim determination to have a great time, and simply offer people time to relax and get to know each other that work best. Done well, they even become the stuff of legend.

Dom continues: “People often say, 'remember the time, when so and so…” Humour and shared experience then becomes part of your cultural history and before you know it you have colleagues who understand and respect each other; indeed, many become very close friends. Then comes the sharing of knowledge, best practice and a tighter team network - all of which enhances our ability to serve our clients.”
Dom is convinced that a more positive mindset means a more successful business. Dom concludes: “People give a huge chunk of their lives to work – so you have to make it enjoyable. In any job, results are clearly paramount but, as individuals, we often reflect more on the humour and good company enjoyed en route, than work achievement per se. That is what life is all about. Whoever has the most stories wins!”

How to have fun at work - without the cheesy jokes…

  • Develop and maintain social or team activities with colleagues – they enable people to bond, develop banter and enjoy common experiences.
  • If your work is on the dry side, give people the chance to relax by organising trips to the pub, outings, away days.
  • Encourage people to widen their horizons at your work place – perhaps they can shadow another colleague, write a case study or organise a charity event?
  • Don't take it all too seriously – you're still your own person with a life outside work, other interests and skills - don't let work consume you.
  • Perspective - work is rarely life or death, and if you are in a dilemma or dealing with the client from hell there is usually a colleague who can help you or is able to commiserate and empathise.
  • Enjoy the journey you are on together – whether its positive or not, you are in it together and its all good experience and a learning curve. Sometimes the worst of times end up proving career changing and a valuable lesson learnt!

Article by Moorhouse Consulting, visit them at 

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