Fun and hard work do not have to be mutually exclusive

That is the exact problem that many business owners face, that they think that fun equates to no work being done.

Above, the Google office in Dubai. Sarah Dea / The National
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If you ask me to imagine the perfect place, I would say a place that is fun, where work does not really feel like work, and a place where I would like to achieve and work harder. Saying so, the Google offices come to mind.

A friend of mine works in the food and beverage industry and has a problem keeping her staff happy at work. They often complain, look bored, and she feels like that is being projected to her customers. I suggested that she should work on changing her work culture, to make work fun. She said that she is running a business and wants her staff to focus on business growth rather than fun.

That is the exact problem that many business owners face, that they think that fun equates to no work being done. Unfortunately, that is the reality of many businesses it is thought that to enhance productivity all sorts of fun should be eliminated.

In another business managed by a colleague, she thought that cancelling the hour given to employees to have lunch outside work if they wished would enhance productivity. She shortened the break to 20 minutes, where going out was not an option and rather they should order in food at work. Did productivity increase? Not really. In fact, some of her staff told her that they now dreaded coming to work and they liked how things were before.

There are several ways to enhance productivity at your business while still maintaining a fun work atmosphere:

First and foremost encourage your employees to take breaks.

Many business owners tend to believe that putting in 10 hours of work at the office with one short break, for instance, ensures increased productivity. Taking breaks results in fresher thinking and better moods. Some staff are encouraged to take 10 minutes every hour just to look away from the computer screen and take a walk. This stimulates thinking and eliminates stress.

Dedicate a break room if you have the space or even a corner in your office, and fill it up with non-work related material. If it is a room, the feel of it should be different from the office. Have a TV, some positive topic books, and board games – anything that would change their mood. If possible, have a small refrigerator there and fill it with fruits and juices, and even install a coffee machine. We tried that in our offices, and heard positive feedback from our staff.

Celebrate everything. Whenever your team achieves a target, lands a client, satisfies a customer or simply completes work before the deadline, then recognise that achievement. You do not have to go overboard, a simple work lunch at your offices could go a long way. This will help employees feel empowered, even bringing team members closer.

Organise friendly competitions. These create a fun work environment. Some restaurants have an employee of the month competition, then recognise that by hanging their photograph by the entrance or the checkout desk. If you are managing a sales team you could split your team into different groups and run a competition to see who can land the most clients given a certain time periods. A colleague of mine organised an indoor golf tournament between his staff members. Every day he and his team would compete on who would get the ball in the hole first. There were no prizes to give out, but it was something that they looked forward to every morning.

Socialise outside work. Maintaining a fun environment at work is always great. However, it is also nice to treat your staff to lunch or dinner outside work every now and then. That way you can get to know your team members better and strengthen their relationship.

Business goals are to expand and generate more income, but it is important to keep in mind that the culture where employees are working plays a great role in ensuring that. Implement those strategies, or some of them whether you are at a start-up phase or you have been around for a while. You will notice a change in your team’s attitudes towards work. You may even find yourself want to hang out at the office even more.

Manar Al Hinai is award-winning Emirati writer and communications consultant based in Abu Dhabi. Twitter: @manar_alhinai.

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