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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the April

24, 2002 edition of

U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Making a Workplace a Fun Place

Leslie Yerkes, author and founder of Catalyst Consulting

Group of Cleveland, says smart employers encourage their workers to

bring their whole selves to work — antics and other fun-loving

behavior included. She wrote 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work, and has

just followed it up with her new book, Fun Works: Creating Places

Where People Love to Work.

Enjoying work has never been as important as it is now, says Yerkes.

"In the aftermath of 9-11, Americans have become more insistent

that what they do be meaningful in the here and now," she says.

"Since we spend more of our lives at work than at any other single

activity, we want our work to be satisfying, joyous, and fulfilling.

We want to bring our whole selves to work and not leave the

fun-loving,

friendly, energetic person we really are at home. For years Americans

have felt that fun could only exist after work — that we had to

work hard to earn our fun. People are no longer willing to live like

this. It is time for all of us to challenge those taboos."

A fun-filled office is a productive, creative office,

Yerkes found as she interviewed CEOs around the country. But letting

fun out of the box seems risky to many in corporate America. In this

excerpt from her book, Yerkes talks about how to remove the roadblocks

to fun:

We live with biases imbedded into our work ethic, biases that prevent

us from integrating our whole selves into our work life. Do you carry

any of these biases?

If we have too much fun, then work will not get done.

If I am silly, I may be perceived as stupid and/or

unprofessional.

If I am fun-loving, it means I am less substantive.

It takes too much time to incorporate fun into the fabric of

work.

Fun, joy, and passion are soft and have no relationship to

effective

work cultures.

Working hard and long are the prime requirements for creating

and living a successful life.

These biases are symptons of our Type A Behavior. We are

fascinated

with Type A; we glorify it and honor it. We don’t seem to value

preparation

and planning with anywhere near the amount of reverence we hold for

"rolling up our sleeves and getting right to work." We value

the result more than the method; we measure how much gets done instead

of how much fun it was to do it. We often meet our deadlines but don’t

grow and improve in the process.

When I give my speeches, I always ask the audience what are the

benefits

of incorporating fun with work. The answers are always the same: a

positive impact on morale and productivity; reduction in stress,

absenteeism,

and attrition; and the ability to attract and retain key employees.

Then I ask "If we understand that by incorporating fun into work

we can achieve these results, what prevents us from doing that?"

The answer is always our biases. And chief among these is our bias

that Type A Behavior is the desired norm.

We choose our biases; they are ours to keep or to let go. Why do we

choose to keep the biases we have? For example, if we spend more time

at work than at any other single activity, then why do we choose work

that is sterile and bleak over work that is fun and enriching? The

answer is fear.

We are afraid that if there is fun, there cannot be work. That if

we are having fun, the outside world will think less of us. The

companies

in Fun Works have faced this fear and conquered it. They have

incorporated

the principle of challenging their biases and they have prospered.

And in the process they have created a work environment that attracts

and retains the kind of people who will further enrich these companies

and increase their value.

The benefits of creating a work culture that places value on fun and

productivity can be quantified. They can be measured in terms of

employee

satisfaction, retention, work quality, and customer loyalty. If your

organization has strategic initiatives sucas as Finding and Keeping

Peak Performers, Innovation in Products and Services, Quality and

Service as a Competitive Advantage, Managing the Risks of Stress and

Change, Increased Productivity, and Employee Satisfaction, then the

principles of Challenge Your Bias will help you achieve these

initiatives

more quickly.

When we challenge our bias of "when the work is done then we’ll

have fun" and incorporate fun into work, then our self-imposed

obstacles to success will be removed.

Take down those roadblocks that prevent the full release of your

being.

Change the way you think about integrating fun and work. Challenge

the status quo and take control of your attitudes toward work.

Change your bias.


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