Game Over?

Make Someone Happy

Fun definitely has its place, but it takes communication and finding a balance that works for everyone. Here are some tips for having fun that won't leave employees frustrated:

  • Have a point. Make sure events have specific purposes and are kept brief. "They have to have a specific purpose other than to kill a keg," Oldman says. Give employees time to plan ahead. At least one month's notice is best, particularly for employees with kids.
  • Keep events limited to work hours. Does that event really need to be held on a Saturday afternoon? Employees see fun during the work-day as more of a perk than events that happen after hours. They view your willingness to have fun "on the clock" as respect for their personal time, something that can build loyalty, not to mention better-rested employees. A daytime baseball game on a workday, for example, feels like a treat to employees.
  • Get input from all employees. "If you've got a bunch of folks whose idea of a good time is a good, hard session of video gaming, don't make them go on a windsurfing trip," Catherine says.

John O'Malley, president of Birmingham, Alabama-based consulting firm Strategic Visions Inc., suggests using a blind survey to learn the events workers enjoy and when they want to do them.

  • Don't force it. Don't make partici-pation mandatory or pressure employees to attend. If employees aren't sticking around for fun, chances are there's something about the event or the time it's scheduled that's turning them off. O'Malley says giving employees individual "surprise days" every so often can't hurt. "After a huge push, tell an employee that he or she doesn't have to come to work tomorrow, or offer a weekend extension," he says.

Finally, make sure applicants understand your company's fun side. It'll help them decide whether your company is right for them and keep you from hiring someone who doesn't see the fun in what you're trying to do.

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Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.

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This article was originally published in the February 2001 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Game Over?.

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