For some people, it might feel counterintuitive to foster fun activities in the workplace. After all, employees are there to get work done, not turn the day into an extended happy hour. But with the right kinds of changes in the office environment, seemingly excessive amenities can foster a greater sense of creativity, understanding, and confidence within a company.

Foster Idea Development

One of the greatest ways to inspire employees to create new products/ideas is to create a collaborative and stimulating environment in which ideas can be shared and expanded upon. You can do that by putting on a "hackathon," which is a day-long event in which employees focus on one project or idea. These kinds of events bring coworkers closer together, inspiring off-the-cuff ideas that won’t lose their luster from being sent through a slow corporate system. You can check out Shutterstock’s Hackathon, for inspiration on how to run your event.

Support Personal Goals

Employees who are happy at work and lead meaningful lives, are generally more productive at work, so it's in employer's best interests to support the personal goals and happiness of employees. One way to do this is by offering unique opportunities to employees that combine their personal goals and interests with charitable endeavors. For example, Accenture hosts a program freely available for all of its employees: after fundraising for charitable causes, they can join the company’s yearly trek to Kilimanjaro with most of their expenses paid. This is a unique way to give employees the opportunity to pursue their personal ambitions, refresh their minds, and support a good cause all at once. But you don't have to do something so extravagant—you can simply do what Google does: allow employees to use 20% of their time for personal or company projects that interest them.

Create Open Office Environments

Improving an office environment can sometimes be as simple as making sure that people are continuously brought together in different ways. For example, Pixar’s campus has a large atrium, with restaurants, a theater, and a fitness center, where all members of the company in every discipline are able to mingle and connect. This space subtly reinforces of the idea of continuous collaboration, even while employees are off the clock and enjoying the company’s resources.

Make Personal Spaces

While many new office structures choose to eschew cubicles, other companies like Zappos have embraced and upgraded them. Employees are encouraged to decorate and personalize their areas with as much flamboyance as they choose, making their spaces feel less like a cold box, and more like a home away from home. While it's important to have open, collaborative spaces, it's also important to give employees a refuge where they can find quite time to work on projects.

Funny Photo Ops

Try following in the footsteps of BigStock employees, who celebrate random holidays like National Donut Day by taking pictures of themselves weighing the treat against a healthier alternative. Or have your own Desk Safari by getting employees to pose in just the right position with images of animals on their computers. You can easily make these activities into competitions; or the printed photos can merely be put on a rotating display. However you choose to structure your funny photo ops, remember the purpose of these projects is to give your employees a sense of belonging and visibility—you can do that by sharing the photos on your company blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account. By giving ideas similar to these a spin, innovative companies have found that the investment of time and money is well worth the outpouring of better attitudes, brighter ideas, and more cohesive teams. Even if you have to start small, gestures that make the workplace more fun and challenging will pay off in a variety of ways in the future.

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