Having fun in the workplace is great, but it’s no longer just about having a laugh around the watercooler.

Let me explain why.  

Just recently, we worked alongside world leading expert on wellbeing at work, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, in conducting research about play at work.  It threw up some very interesting results and confirmed to us that fun at work – as simple as dress down days, board games and a belly laugh – can reduce absenteeism, promote psychological wellbeing and boost productivity.

Interestingly, however, our research highlighted different needs or wants between generations for fun at work.

It showed young employees who enjoy a good belly laugh at work are less likely to skip work with sickies and that companies providing fun in the office – such as Xbox games, karaoke and luxury massages – are more likely to have a productive office.

Coined by experts as the workforce ‘Millennials’, some 79 per cent of 16-24 year old employees said fun at work was very important them, with 44 per cent admitting ‘play’ at work made them work harder.

However the elders were inclined to disagree.    

Only 14 per cent of 55-60 year-olds said they liked ‘playtime’ at work with the rest taking a more traditional approach to the working day.

By the same token, even though belly laughs at work were deemed a good thing, only four in ten 50 to 60 year olds said it would make their work life better compared to nearly three-quarters of millennials.

We also found that fun impacted positively on how many sick days employees took off work.  

Our research showed 62 per cent of employees who had taken no sick days in the last three months had had more fun at work.  It was also interesting to discover that 58 per cent of those who had not experienced workplace fun had been off sick for 11 or more days in the last three months, compared to 42 per cent of those who had.

Workers currently taking part in fun activities in their organisation were significantly more likely to enjoy increased creativity and psychological well-being and better health in the last three months than those who didn’t. 

Professor Cooper told us that he believes a shift in attitudes towards work is triggered from graduates and school leavers working longer hours than ever before.  Furthermore, the assumption of old-age retirement and living in financially unstable society, means young workers seek fun in their office to ensure they get the most out of their time. 

So what can we conclude from this? 

Businesses must decide how to deal with a multi-generational workforce and how to educate their senior leaders, most of whom will be Baby Boomers, about how the different expectations of the Millennials.

Trust is key. If people are trusted to do their work and feel empowered to play and have fun in the workplace, a business can benefit from a more happy, motivated and productive workforce.  

The fun we talk about doesn’t have to cost a lot either; it could simply be laughing with colleagues, celebrating office birthdays or enjoying work related tasks.

Graduates are most likely to use workplace fun to alleviate stress, boost performance and productivity and, as the number of Millennials grow, businesses must think about their approach to workplace fun/play to be able to continue to attract them.

All of this and more can be found in our new It Pays to Play report.

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