I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Ready? Here it is: It’s good to have fun.
Okay, that may not be much of a secret, so let me get a little more specific: It’s good to have fun in the workplace.
Seriously. There are so many benefits to having fun in the workplace.
Workplaces that welcome fun are less stressful (and as we all know, stress is not a good thing). And less stress at work makes for healthier and happier employees. And employees that are happier have proved to be more productive. See the positive chain reaction that can be set off just by adding a little levity to the daily grind?
So, to help your org bring on the fun, we’ve compiled a list of workplace activities (and some intranet-based alternatives) that, in addition to their obvious “fun factor”, also have some not-so-obvious hidden benefits. So, let’s get to it!
Simple and classic. You buy a puzzle, dump the pieces out on a tabletop, and everyone puts ‘em together to form one big picture.
Jigsaw puzzles are an easy and inexpensive way to introduce a casual, fun element into the workplace. They aren’t disruptive to anyone and don’t require any prep or maintenance (except for the unlucky person tasked with flipping over all the face-down pieces after they’re first poured out—sorry, Janessa!).
Puzzles are great for the workplace because they provide what I call a “brain break”—a relaxing diversion that still exercises your brain. And that’s not just something I’m pulling out of thin air. Jigsaw puzzles are well-known for their brain-boosting abilities. They give both the “logical” left and “creative” right sides of your brain a little workout AND they help improve your memory, to boot!
Hidden benefit: Jigsaw puzzles are natural conversation-starters and having one set up in a common area can be a good way to break the ice between different departments and/or people who don’t normally work together. The non-structured, drop-in/drop-out nature is also very appealing to people who might normally shy away from participating in something that requires more of a commitment.
Cooking challenge (Workplace MasterChef/Potluck Top Chef)
Before anyone gets too excited, neither of the following activities involve petitioning Gordon Ramsey or Padma Lakshmi to give your org a spin-off of either of their respective cooking competition shows. But they do involve cooking (and a little dash of shameless brand exploitation).
Our first activity is more suitable for larger orgs:
Over the course of a week, have a different team take over the kitchen each lunch hour to prepare a multi-dish meal for the masses. After each meal, people fill out a scorecard and at the end of the week, the team with the highest average score can be crowned your Workplace MasterChef team!
Our second activity caters more to orgs with a smaller head count:
Have an international potluck day, where anyone can bring in a dish from or inspired by their native country or culture. Afterwards, take votes for best dish and crown your Potluck Top Chef winner!
Both of these activities are rewarding for the cooks and non-cooks alike. For those who prepare the meals, it’s a chance to share a bit about something that makes them proud, whether it be their heritage, cooking skills, or both. And for those being served, they get to skip their usual fast food or pre-packaged lunch and enjoy a feast of home-cooked goodness (and without doing any of the prep)!
Hidden benefit: Both are great ways for people to bond with their colleagues that don’t fall into the dreaded, fun-adverse “team-building” zone. With either activity, everyone works independently (on their own dishes) then comes together to see and share what they’ve created as a whole. It’s the perfect non-team team activity!
Special added bonus: it can help to promote diversity in the workplace and give everyone more insight to the heritage, cultures, and special talents of the people within their own organization.
Take those fun little games that Curtis in IT always seems to have set up around his workstation and elevate them to the next level!
Organize a series of indoor office games (think: Velcro darts, non-beer pong, bean bag toss, paper airplane contest) to be played during lunch breaks over the course of the week. Create teams to compete in and play different events each day. Either give out medals per event or keep a running tally of scores and award “medals” for overall performance at the Closing ceremonies (aka Friday’s lunch break).
Even better with an intranet: Use your intranet’s news feed to update the daily standings and build up the excitement over who will take home the gold (or at least who will take it back to their workstation).
Friendly competition can be fun and rewarding. It’s a chance to motivate and support one another. It can ignite ambition and drive as well as be the spark that creates new relationships in the workplace. And that awesome euphoric rush and sense of victory that culminates in the finals of any competition isn’t just restricted to Olympic-sanctioned events.
Hidden benefit: Receiving awards and recognition at work instill a sense of pride and accomplishment (even if it’s all for fun and not work-related) and can greatly contribute to the feeling of being a valued part of a team.
Scavenger hunt/intranet hunt
You know the deal. Someone draws up a list of things to find. People go and find the things.
Frantic and fun, scavenger hunts also encourage creative thinking and can stimulate an enjoyable adrenaline rush.
For a traditional scavenger hunt, create a checklist containing a series of tasks and questions relating to people, departments, areas, and/or objects in and around your workplace. Set a time limit and the first team to complete their checklist correctly and under time wins.
Hidden benefit: Due of the nature of scavenger hunts, social interaction is built right into the game, and spreading the action out across your workplace means you can have your players interact with a variety of people or departments they may not know much about. Result: they end up coming away with a greater knowledge about your org and everyone’s role in it.
Alternate intranet version: This option is good if you have an intranet and would like to do a smaller-scale hunt. “Hide” emojis throughout your intranet content and then give clues as to where they’re located (news articles, employee documentation, profile pages, etc.). Set a deadline for players to submit their screenshots of each emoji they find and the person/team that finds the most wins.
And speaking of intranet-users, if your org just doesn’t have the space or the means for any of the previous workplace activities, or if everyone is spread out across multiple locations and you want to include them all in the fun, then this one is just for you:
Intranet profile update challenge
Required: an intranet, ideally one that offers a robust Profile feature for each user.
Announce a week-long challenge to find out who can add the most interesting, offbeat, amazing, or intriguing “About Me” fact to their Profile. Create a chat thread for people to announce when their Profile has been updated. At the end of the week create a poll for people to vote on who had the best tidbit and award them something that’s just as offbeat and interesting.
When it comes to learning more about the people you work with, it’s always more enjoyable to hear about the stand-off Tonya had with a snake she found in her sleeping bag (love your new snakeskin belt, Tonya!) rather than the longest time Marcel has waited in line at the post office (13 minutes isn’t even that long, Marcel), and this activity is a great way to do deep dive for things that are more “Tonya” and less “Marcel”.
Hidden benefit: It’s practically guaranteed to boost your intranet engagement. And if you’re an org with a relatively new intranet, it’s a slick way to introduce your users to a variety of the features available. Who knows, you just might find out that you have something unusual in common with someone you work with!
It’s simple, really. Fun in the workplace is good and these activities make it even better. So the sooner your org can set aside a little play time in the work week, the sooner everyone can start reaping the rewards of a happier, healthier work environment.