Making fun of small business. Just for a change, I’m not talking about taking the piss. I’m talking about making small business enjoyable, having fun, and involving everyone in your business with it.
While I love the old idiom ‘When I play, I play hard. When I work, I don’t play at all’, perhaps it comes across as a bit too stern and ironclad. When I refer to having fun at work I’m not talking about messing around at work and getting bogged down in unproductive nonsense. I’m referring to simply enjoying yourself while working.
There are those who believe that enjoyment and work are mutually exclusive – you know, like people who work in banks for instance. But I believe with all my heart that if your small business isn’t a genuinely enjoyable place to work – a place that on an average day your staff look forward to coming to – then your business isn’t going to retain staff, grow, or get very far in the scheme of things.
I was a partner in a business some years ago that stopped being a fun place to work. The negativity spread from the top down, as bad vibes radiated from an ongoing dispute between myself and my then business partner. As hard as it might be, as the owner of a small business you must do all you can to be the figurehead example of a great attitude. Bring anything else to work and it’ll infect your office like the flu.
Looking at the current business environment there’s no doubt that times are tough. There’s plenty of doom and gloom on the air for those special sorts of people who like to dwell on the negative. All the more reason to put some effort into making smiles the most common expressions in your place of business. And if that sounds easy, take a tip from the screenwriters of the world who’ll tell you that comedy is the most difficult of all genres to write. The key to getting people smiling and feeling good is to remember what the best movie makers always bear in mind – you’re dealing with a mixed crowd, everyone is different, and so you need to employ tactics that’ll not only make your
people feel good, but make them feel included. You can’t afford to leave anyone out.
Give it some careful thought – you don’t want to create a situation that looks like an episode of ‘The Office’! Then go forth and get your people smiling and genuinely having a good time as they work. Here are some tips you might find handy;
Ease into it
If your business has been a bit on the glum side for awhile, don’t just suddenly start rolling out fun events and goading your employees into joining in. Forcing the situation will have your people wondering what you’re up to.
Fun can’t be compulsory
“I demand that you all start enjoying yourselves!” Doesn’t sit quite right, does it? So when you bring in new initiatives or activities, make it voluntary. Some staff will jump right in, others will take their time. It’s not a race.
Make it inclusive
Be careful not to create situations where any of your people – for any reason – could feel left out, isolated or even insulted. Depending on what you’re planning, you may have to take into account an individual’s build, beliefs, diet…maybe this is a chance to get to know your people even better?
Not at work? Then don’t talk about work!
Genuinely inclusive activities outside of work can be great fun and really unite your team, but remember to leave the work and the work talk behind. Start talking work – or talking about yourself – and you can expect attendance to drop off very severely at your next extra curricular gathering. Use these events to really mingle and get to know your staff better – use your ears more than your mouth!
So what happens next?
Okay, every business is different, but some simple ideas can work for just about any situation. Here are a few;
- Get outside. Maybe move one of your meetings to a park if the weather is nice or simply go for a walk with your people. You might be surprised just how much some sunshine and fresh air can liven everyone up.
- Change the décor and mix things up. If things have been the same in your offices for ages, introduce some plants, some new art, maybe some new furniture. Maybe put out some healthy snacks…and now and then some unhealthy ones!
- Get your people involved. If you’re agonizing over how to introduce some fun to the workplace, ask some of the people you work with – you might just get some great feedback
- Celebrate! Whether they’re business milestones, achievements or birthdays, make an effort to put some sincere celebration into these events. It punctuates the working week and helps everyone understand that they matter in your business.
There are dozens of things you can do to get the office fired up. Movie nights, karaoke, lunches (and no, lunches don’t have to be boozy…) going to music or sports events or even forming your own sports team. In or out of the office, all it takes is some imagination, along with consideration…be sure everyone can join in and feel like they’re part of it all.
And if all of this looks a bit frivolous to you and you’re not sure how it’s going to go towards your business bottom line, remember where we started – this is about creating an enjoyable work environment and a contented, united team, with staff who are engaged, loyal, and feel valued as part of the business. High staff turnover is a curse that can really hurt a business, and high staff morale is the cure. Even in the face of attractive offers from elsewhere, staff will think twice about leaving if they’re having fun where they are.
Why not get thinking while the new financial year is still young and try injecting some enjoyment back into your business? When the figures come together in June 2014, you might find out that you really are running a business for fun and profit – and that a good dose of the former leads to an improvement in the latter.
Wishing you all the best for your week in business.