To the Rescue

Let the Good Times Roll

Fuel creativity by pumping fun into your business environment.

There's a miniature golf game going on at a course featuring different world cultures-the team representing Canada is playing the Mexico-themed hole. The sun shines onto the energetic players in this...place of business.

Yes, this scene took place on a recent workday at the offices of Macquarium Intelligent Communications, a web development and consulting firm in Atlanta. Founded in 1991 by Marc Adler, 32, the company has a commitment to good work and good fun that runs deep. Says Adler, "We need to keep our people happy. [Fun] is absolutely critical-not optional in our minds." Unique and interesting activities, such as trivia tournaments and spinning the wheel of employee rewards (prizes include $1,000 cash or a car wash performed by Adler himself), are planned by those Macquarium employees elected to be "funologists."

Bethany Brown, Macquarium's communications manager and one such funologist, got the idea for the miniature golf game from an employee suggestion. Events like the game, as well as after-work outings to movies, museums, cruises-and even white-water rafting trips-promote creativity and enthusiasm, and have helped grow yearly sales well into the eight-figure range.

That's exactly the way to approach it, says Leslie Yerkes, founder of Catalyst Consulting Group in Cleveland and co-author of 301 Ways to Have Fun at Work: "Go and ask your folks. If you come in with all your own ideas, you haven't engaged [your employees] with exploring."

It's all about creating a philosophical and cultural environment that encourages play and fun as indispensable parts of a healthy workday. "[The idea] is not 'Work hard, and when you're done, go play.' That's keeping them separate," says Yerkes. "Healthy and sustainable organizations focus on the fundamentals: quality, service, fiscal responsibility, leadership-but they didn't forget to add fun to that formula."

For instance, if you have a huge mailing to do, don't burden one person with the monster task-instead, get a group of the staff together, order some snacks, and start stuffing. Talk weekend plans, talk family, talk the latest action flick-the point is to get the job done while engaging your employees at the same time.

Think layout and design as well, since 70 percent of office workers feel their furniture affects how they do their jobs, according to a recent study by The HON Company. "If you want people to be productive and feel good about where they work, you need to create a space that's not only inviting, but also functional," says David Burdakin, president of The HON Company in Muscatine, Iowa. "You can achieve this through the furniture you buy, how you configure your space, and the colors you choose for your walls, furniture and accessories. The setup and color should communicate your company's personality and image, and also be conducive to the work being done."

Eric Poses, 31, founded his Santa Monica, California, board game business, All Things Equal Inc., with the express idea that it would be a fun place to work. Games are his bread and butter, and they can be found around the office, ready for spontaneous play. Couches, a pool table and Poses' dog make the office homey and help breed creativity in this million-dollar company.

Even inexpensive changes, like reorganizing the office furniture or letting more light into the building, can be effective. You could also hire a professional massage therapist to visit your office, or play employees' favorite music. But don't leave it up to us-go ask your brilliant employees for their fun-enhancing suggestions over a nice game of table tennis. -Nichole L. Torres

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This article was originally published in the November 2004 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: To the Rescue.

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