Mandated Fun

September 17th, 2010

The Economist writes about the rise of mandated fun in companies, and the business it has spawned:

Fun at work is becoming a business in its own right. Madan Kataria, an Indian who styles himself the “guru of giggling”, sells “laughter yoga” to corporate clients. Fun at Work, a British company, offers you “more hilarity than you can handle”, including replacing your receptionists with “Ab Fab” lookalikes. Chiswick Park, an office development in London, brands itself with the slogan “enjoy-work”, and hosts lunchtime events such as sheep-shearing and geese-herding.

This apparently is a management trend because so few employees are engaged with their job (e.g. see it as anything more than a paycheck).

So, they hope by making work “fun,” employees will be more creative and productive. Besides sounding slightly dystopic (one company has a “Wow!” department), it’s idiotic.

If you need to set up lunchtime events like geese-herding (that’s supposed to be fun?) to try to make work fun for your employees, you have a serious problem: it means they don’t like their jobs. That means they aren’t doing as good of work as they can be doing, and it means your business is suffering. You’re papering over the real issue with idiotic exercises that no one enjoys doing.

Here’s a much simpler solution: make the work itself interesting and rewarding for your employees so they can get satisfaction from their jobs, make the environment warm and enjoyable for people to be a part of. If you do these two things (which, admittedly, is difficult, but that is your job if you are running a company), workers will find fun things to do naturally with their colleagues.