Make work more fun, and more profitable!

Managers should do their best to create a work environment where employees truly enjoy their jobs. This isn’t as easy as it sounds! It takes planning and effort to establish a pleasant, positive atmosphere, says Peter Hughes.

Make work more fun, and more profitable!
- Advertisement -

Jack Evans, the long-serving and much-loved company accountant of our business, was something of a philosopher who didn’t take life too seriously.

He always had a smile and a joke for the right moment, yet he used to drive me mad. Not once in all the years I worked with him did he attend a meeting on time!

Other than this infuriating habit, he did a brilliant job. I never saw him flustered or rushed except once a week, on a Saturday (those were the days when farm offices were still open until midday).

- Advertisement -

Jack’s regular golfing tee-off time was 12.30pm, and he would pace the corridor as knocking-off time approached and gallop out just before 12.


Jack was a father figure in the business, and as the newly appointed manager I was reluctant to take him on about his tardiness.

One day, however, when he was later than normal, I snapped: “Jack, for goodness’ sake, look at the time! Why the blazes are you always late?”

I couldn’t resist adding sarcastically: “I’ve noticed you’ve no problem getting to your four-ball on time on Saturdays!”

Completely composed and unfazed by my outburst, he replied with a smile on his face: “Pete, I apologise for my chronic tardiness, but in my defence, you must admit that everyone derives a greater delight from activities done out of choice than those done out of necessity.

So it follows that punctuality will always be dependent on the nature of the forthcoming activity.” Faced with this logic, I was rendered speechless.

“I know you’re an avid reader of Mark Twain’s books,” he went on.
“Do you remember what he said about his attitude to work?”

I didn’t, so Jack told me. On the eve of his 70th birthday, reminiscing about his career, Twain said: “What work I have done, I have done because it was play. If it had been work, I wouldn’t have done it.”

In Jack’s view, the challenge of all managers in building a happy, motivated, productive workforce was to create an environment where people enjoyed their jobs as much as they did their play, be it golf, football, tennis, wetting a line or idling at home with a book.

Chastened and intrigued by his views, I dispensed with the ‘work’ matters on the agenda, and we debated the important points Jack was making.

How could we make our work more fun-filled?

This was easier said than done. In the few hours we spent debating it, we came up with the following. I called it ‘Jack’s Way’:

  • Courtesy, respect and cheerfulness
    Do everything possible to create a culture of cheerfulness, courtesy, respect and empathy between bosses and employees.
  • Socialise more
    Spend more ‘idle’ time together,
    letting staff at all levels get to know each other better at a personal level. Find ways to celebrate birthdays, Christmas, and any other important anniversaries.
  • Play more
    Hold regular intra- and inter-company sports matches between neighbouring farms, company departments, sections, bosses and workers.
  • Fewer deadlines
    Unreasonable deadlines are killers of fun and creativity, which go hand
    in hand. Both need ‘idle’ time to flourish. As Stephen Robins says in The Importance of Being Idle, hard work under pressure will rob you of your passion for life, and destroy your creative itch.
  • Experiments and mavericks
    Encourage staff to try new ideas, ask silly questions, and make radical suggestions, without fear of failure or ridicule. Applaud those who try new ways of doing things, and reward those who succeed.
  • Cultivate optimism
    Negativity is the enemy of happiness and fun. Make it known the company has zero tolerance for chronic pessimists, naysayers and killjoys.
  • Ban destructive personal comparisons
    Making comparisons between two individuals is odious, and kills fun and creativity. Everyone has different strengths and preferences. Tailor jobs to exploit these.
  • Travel more
    Everyone, especially managers, should be required to travel
    regularly, with the objective of getting away from work, having some ‘idle’ time to think, and getting a dose of perspective.

What do you think? Did I pinpoint the key killers of fun at work?

Peter Hughes is a business and management consultant.