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How important is it to have fun at work?

Is fun relevant for the modern workforce? We further the discussion on a Deloitte insights article on making work fun for "competitive advantage."

Desklodge Bristol office share space

This post is a response to the article here

How important is it to have fun at work?

According to a new article from Deloitte Insights, we’re in the midst of another ‘seismic shift’ in the way work is perceived, with a younger generation of talent increasingly choosing work that they find fun and engaging, rather than opting for the financial stability offered by more traditional, longstanding and reputable organisations. Increasingly, the rigid separation of ‘work’ and ‘play’, which has historically underpinned our working lives, is being eroded, and employers that can merge the two are said to be gaining a competitive advantage. Yet despite this dramatic societal shift, too many organisations are sticking stubbornly to the old ways, and risk being left behind.

How can employers react in order to retain, attract and develop talent?

So how can employers react in order to retain, attract and develop talent? Some have sought to rise to this challenge by creating fun and engaging work spaces –replete with themed rooms, ‘nap-pods’ and table tennis – where their employees can mix work with leisure or relaxation.

“The new San Francisco offices of Technology start-up Lyft, for example, has indoor parks and a ‘Willy Wonka’ room to help foster fun and collaboration amongst the workforce.”

Meanwhile, here at Humdex, our Bristol based members work out of a freelance space called Desklodge – which offers tents for group meetings, disco themed phone booths for private calls (complete with flashing disco lights), and its very own Hobbit Hole. So what are the benefits to working in such a space?

Getting creative

From first-hand experience, these environments are not just more enjoyable places to work, but also seem to help stimulate creativity and innovation. Many of us are probably familiar with the idea that ‘we often get our best thoughts in the shower’, but there may actually be some factual basis to this popular aphorism. Scientific research has suggested that we are at our most creative when we’re relaxed (making us more likely to turn our attention inwards), we’re distracted (which gives our brains a break and allows our subconscious can work on the issue more creatively), and when dopamine levels are high. Creating a space and environment that affords your workers plenty of opportunities for constructive distraction and relaxation can thus have real benefits – whether that’s by gathering your thoughts in a hammock, taking a break to play some table tennis, or curling up in a corner of Bag-End (though we’re still unconvinced about the benefits of the disco lights).

So such environments can be more fun to work in, whilst also boosting creativity and innovation, but why is creating one at your organisation so important? And when it comes to recruitment, can it really compete with traditional drivers – like salary, financial stability and benefits? The key thing to bear in mind here, is that for younger generations, the view of what the future holds has shifted dramatically. As the article notes:

“For the first time in many years, young people believe that they will be financially worse off than their parents. This has led to many actively questioning the core premises of corporate behaviour and the economic and social principles that guide it.”

Given such expectations, it is perhaps no surprise that many of this generation are choosing work that is engaging, enjoyable, allows them to use or develop creativity and new skills, and is thus rewarding right now, rather than prioritising a higher salary or financial stability in the long-run. As the promised rewards of a more traditional career path – such as increased wealth or home ownership – appear increasingly unachievable or out of reach, then the other aspects of that economic bargain will inevitably come under strain, and start to change accordingly.

Perhaps the key thing to bear in mind though, when confronting such changes, is that our relationship with work has always been highly contingent.

The ‘historical’ separation of ‘work’ and ‘play’ that the article mentions, is not really historical at all – if you go back far enough.

Before the industrial revolution, there was no rigid separation of work and leisure, and the very concept of a ‘working-day’ or ‘working hours’ would have seemed strange to most people. Rather than clinging to the models of work that we are used to, it might be better to recognise them for what they are – specific models that were designed and suited for a particular time and age – and as those times change, so must we keep changing with them.

Author -David Selway

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