They Who Laugh, Last!
April, 2000
Paul E. McGhee, PhD

Still More Ideas for Building Fun into Your Work Setting

Signs on Employee Doors/Desks

The buck doesn’t even slow down here.

Oh no! Not another learning experience!

Stupidity does not qualify as a handicap. Park elsewhere!

Nothing’s impossible for those who don’t have to do it.

We do precision guesswork.

1) Promise someone an award (if they meet a quota or finish a task) that requires you to dress up in a fun costume.

2) Encourage employees to develop a skit in which they poke fun at themselves and their work.

3) Decorate the Board Room with funny posters.

4) Add pertinent cartoons or funny quotes to memos and meeting agendas.

5) Put a "Food joke of the week" box in the front of the cafeteria. Invite employees to put in their favorite joke that relates to food or eating. Post the winner on a wall each week and offer a prize (free meal for two, antacid tablets, etc.).

6) Have a pizza "complaint party."

Once your office has agreed to reduce complaining and negativity in the office, each person caught being negative or complaining puts a quarter into a pizza pot. At the end of the month the money is used to buy pizza and beer for everyone in the office.

7) Give a free bottle of Champaign to the employee who has the toughest customer of the week.

8) Put up photos of the management team when they were children.

9) Keep a pair of silly nose glasses in the men’s and women’s rest rooms. People will not be able to resist checking themselves out in the mirror. (Attach it to a string--they’ll want to take it with them.)

10) Be on the lookout for a motto to put over your desk that helps keep daily hassles in perspective.

Consider checking out Dilbert for ideas. Samples: "I have seen the truth and it makes no sense." "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." "Just when you manage to make ends meet, they move the ends." You can also be innovative and create a "Dilbert Committee," whose role would be to find aspects of office procedures which could be used in a Dilbert cartoon.

11) Open or close meetings by sharing a funny incident that happened on the job. Jokes have less power and impact in transforming the work environment, but can be used as a substitute if no one has a funny incident to share.

12) Have an "Embarrassing Incident" contest, in which a prize is given to the person suffering the funniest embarrassing incident. (Note: this will often be something which only became funny later, after the embarrassment had eased.)

13) Find a new challenge for yourself that you would enjoy taking on.

14) Choose a co-worker to treat to a special lunch/dinner every month. (Make it a different person each month.)

15) Send other employees a fun gift when you think they've done an especially good job on a task or project. If you really want to create a fun surprise, pick a couple of employees each year and send them on a surprise expenses-paid four-day weekend in the Bahamas.

16) Pick one or two people to secretly help in their work. Don't tell anyone you're doing this; just be on the lookout to make their job a bit easier.

17) Promise someone an award that requires you to dress up in a silly costume if they win.

As noted in this column last month, it is important to give some thought to your particular work culture and the kinds of fun things which would and would not work. Be sure to organize a "fun committee" which considers sensitivities that would make some of the activities suggested here inappropriate. The committee can brainstorm about fun activities using the lists provided in the past three months as a starting point.

While making the effort to bring elements of fun into your work, always remember to continue taking your work seriously while taking yourself lightly. You can remain professional and competent and still bring a sense of humor and fun to your job.

[Adapted from Health, Healing and the Amuse System: Humor as Survival Training. Call 800-228-0810 to order.]

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