Lighten Up!

As I write this, March Madness is underway. In recent weeks, people have been busy filling out their brackets and hoping they’d made good decisions this year. We know who has been eliminated, who is this year’s “Cinderella” and which coaches will be trying to explain why their team lost in the early rounds of the tournament!

What does this have to do with The Big Book of HR? Well, I am amazed at how much discussion I have heard about the impact March Madness has on US productivity. I’ve seen segments on the national news about it and heard it on the radio being discussed at some length. Some managers try to ban it altogether in the workplace and I wish them luck. Some companies know it is going to impact their workers and find ways to build March Madness into their culture and make it a fun time for employees—even knowing a little less work might get done on some days! Others try to ignore the fact that their employees are huddled around the TV in the lunch room during the afternoon games and some very smart organizations build fun events to incorporate the games and competition into some teambuilding. Where does your organization fall on this continuum?

As you read this, we know who is the new National Champion in college basketball and American workers can go back to doing their jobs and the pundits will go on to the next interesting thing to fill up our 24/7 news cycle. But the concept of “lightening up” in the workplace is something to be considered.

Several years ago, my business book club read a great book by Adrian Gostick and Scott Christopher titled, The Levity Effect—Why it Pays to Lighten Up. They talk about the benefits of levity in the workplace and how it can impact productivity in a positive manner. Their research includes some highly successful companies including Zappos, Enterprise, and Nike. They share amazing research from The Great Place to Work Institute that says that great companies consistently earn higher scores in their surveys by having fun at work! In other words, lightening up can help your organization be more productive and more profitable!

I worked with an organization that built fun into their workplace by having what they called “Surprise Tuesdays.” Each week the general manager would do something different and fun on Tuesday—one week it might be popcorn at 3 pm in the break room and then next week a drawing for a gift card. Every once in a while, there would be a really nice surprise like a drawing for a day off with pay. As the GM put it to me, “No one ever quits on Monday!”

Another company I worked with had long corridors with carpeted floors. The president of the company was a golfer and from time to time, he would set up holes in the hallway and a lighthearted golf game would be held with him actively participating. This accomplished two things—one it was fun to play but, two, it showed a different side of him from what his employees usually experienced! He had a sense of humor and could relax and have fun!

So, March Madness is past but what are you doing to ensure that your environment makes people as productive as possible? Have you built in some fun or lightheartedness to your workplace? If not, The Levity Effect has an entire chapter of 142 ways to have fun at work with examples from Google, Enterprise, Whole Foods and many others.

Our challenge to you is to lighten up and see what happens in your workplace! Have fun!

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