Should work be fun?
I wonder this often. I mean, it’s work after all. And work, simply put, is producing something so you can provide something. That’s not exactly a tagline for a trampoline park, but work today is not shoveling coal. Work today is air-conditioned, safe, and fueled by gourmet coffee and that one lady with the jar of M&Ms. Our work environment has improved in the last century. In 1919, some of the top jobs listed were woodworking, tobacco manufacturing, and textiles. The only place I’ve ever encountered a textile is in a history book. What the F is a textile anyway? Is it fabric, tile, corduroy? I guess it’s one of life’s great mysteries that may never be answered.
If work has changed, then shouldn’t our expectations change with it? There is a very often-cited Gallup poll reporting that 68% of employees are “disengaged“ at work. That sounds about right. I have been disengaged at about 68% of my jobs. You know what is engaging? Having fun. Which brings me back to the original question: Should work be fun?
Hell yeah it should.
But fun is not foosball. We’re adults for fun’s sake. A foosball table is not fun if no one uses it. A bean bag is not fun if you can’t relax on it. A cotton candy machine is not fun if you’re eating it alone in your office. Picturing an adult eating cotton candy alone in their office is in fact one of the sadder things I can imagine. This kind of office setting is like that kid you knew who had all the best toys, but he was such a bummer that it wasn’t even worth going over to his house. Just because you bought all the toys doesn’t mean people will want to play with you.
Fun is fulfillment. Fun is friends. Fun is being acknowledged for a job well done. It’s also fun to play foosball if it’s part of something bigger. If a foosball game serves as a respite from work so you can let your mind wander, that is both fun and work. Foosball is not fun if it’s a Trojan horse to get you to work longer hours. A Pac-Man machine isn’t cool if you can only play it when no one is watching. And employees see right through this game.
Work can and should be fun because life can and should be fun, and you’re at work for like half of your life. And to all or any boss/owner reading this thinking, “That’s cute, the little agency thinks work should be fun,“ all I can say is try it. Try trusting your people a little more and monitoring them a little less. Try being flexible on hours, vacations, and Friday afternoons. Focus more on the people doing the work than the work itself. If you trust them and acknowledge them and SEE them, then they will trust you and acknowledge you and SEE you. And that sounds very fulfilling to me.
Fulfillment is fun.
Fun is not foosball.*
*I think foosball is a lot of fun.