A friend sent me a copy of a letter she’d written for an organization where she mentors high school students. She’d been asked to write about a mentor that had impacted her. She chose me. My favorite thing she said was, “Randy taught me that silliness shouldn’t just be accepted—it should be encouraged!” Here’s why it’s okay to be silly at work.

The Best Workplace Recipe Calls for ½ Cup of Fun

I’ve always thought that humor was a key ingredient for workplace enjoyment. Smart managers learn this and use it. People who enjoy their work are more productive, have lower absenteeism rates, and are less likely to look for another job. Having fun at work is good business. But don’t just take my word for it. Study upon study shows that fun in the workplace isn’t counterproductive, it’s productive.

What Makes People Like Their Job?

“In a 2013 survey of more than 40,000 employees at 30 companies around the world, TINYpulse, a survey and research company, found that the number one reason why people liked their jobs was because they enjoyed the people that they worked with. Employees also liked freedom, autonomy, and flexibility in their jobs — and managers who supported these open environments. Play, pizza lunches, and taking some time for fun at work facilitate these humanistic environments. They encourage employees to stay with the company and they contribute to productivity. This is exactly why managers should make it their business to actively promote fun as well as work.” — Tech Republic, How having fun at work can make employees more productive. 

“A commissioned survey showed that employees who rated their managers’ sense of humor as above average were less likely to look for another job. But those who said their boss’s humor was average or below average didn’t think they would last long on the job.” – Google News

“Each year, the Great Place to Work Institute asks tens of thousands of employees to rate their experience of workplace factors, including, “This is a fun place to work.” On Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, produced by the Great Place to Work Institute, employees in companies that are denoted as “great” responded overwhelmingly — an average of 81 percent — which they are working in a “fun” environment.”  — Monster.com Why fun at work matters.

It’s Not Only Up to the Boss  

Okay, so the boss should help the team have fun at work, but what if you’re not the boss? A title doesn’t make someone a leader, nor does the lack of a title stop someone from taking the lead. Anyone can lead the fun.

How to have Fun at Work

Be a Little Silly

Before you do this get your bosses approval. Do not pass go or collect $200 until you get the okay. My work office area is two rooms upstairs at TKO Graphix, I share one of the rooms with our VP of marketing, and the adjacent room is shared by four graphic designers and a Human Resources Assistant. After only a few weeks on the job, the HR Assistant, began each morning with a quote of the day, which one of the designers set to silly music, which another designer recorded, and then posted it on Snapchat. Everyone upstairs looked forward to the morning inspiration — the silliness started all of our days with a smile. (Ask me about the HR Assistant’s afternoon dance party). The HR assistant has moved on to another job to further his career, but we stay in touch. We miss him; he made work fun. He was silly at work.

Make it a Day

Once again, you’ll need your supervisors’ approval for some of these ideas, for example, a casual dress day. A TKO Graphix employee went to management and asked if we could designate Friday’s as support your team day, by wearing team T-shirts. It began as a football season experiment and now we do it year round.

Our upstairs crew had a conversation about things people add to peanut butter sandwiches. I like olives; another said pickles. Last Friday I brought in homemade chili. The group brought bread, peanut butter, and… stuff.  One of the designers and I tried all the stuff which included olives, Captain Crunch, jalapenos, and pickles; we had a lot of fun. My stomach wasn’t so happy.

Celebrate successes and milestones such as accomplishments, promotions, awards, tenure, and accreditations.

Recognize individuals and teams, not only for results, but also for activities and character.

Compete; initiate a friendly competition between teammates, the prize can be as simple as who buys the morning coffee.

Why it’s Okay to be Silly at Work

I understand not everyone has the silly gene in their DNA, but I’ve met very few people who didn’t enjoy a little silliness around them. Everyone needs to occasionally smile and laugh. Regardless of how serious your work is, the work will improve when the team has fun.

I know that there are jobs that need to be taken seriously but that doesn’t mean every minute of the work day has to be glum.

The HR Assistant, I mentioned earlier used less than two minutes in the morning to put a smile on all of his teammates faces, and did the same in the afternoon with his dance party (you had to be there). Five minutes of being silly is a small investment for a day full of smiles, don’t you think? Have some fun today. Be a little silly. I’d love to hear about the silly things you do at work, leave me a comment.

How Can I Help You? 

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun.

If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course im effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program.

Photo by Austin Pacheco on Unsplash

This post first appeared in We Are Recruiters.