Fun at work or fun in work ?

Résumé : albeit the funny side of social media is often used as an argument for adoption, we have to admit that even if organization prefer to have happy employees they ae not ready to pay to make them have fun at work. Either we consider that’s regrettable form of schizophrenia or the consequence of a culture that dates from another century, facts are facts. So fun should only be the happy side effect of something else above all…be free. Used in the workplace, social media offer possibilities like nothing beforme : more than creating funny spaces and times in the workplace, they allow to make fun a part of people’s work, making it at the same time a consequence, a lever,and a part of a continuous improvement logic that interest and reassure organizations.

Amongst the issues that inspire me contradictory feelings about enterprise 2.0, fun at work is not the least.

There’s a belief shared by everybody in the workplace : employees who enjoy what they do are more efficient and it has a positive impact on work atmosphre. One of the best way to make it happen is, to some extent, to make work more fun. In the same way, everybody knows the value of a good atmosphere in the workplace. Note the difference between both : in one case we talk about the nature of work, in the other the context where it takes place : some people may hate they job but love their company, colleagues and the overall context (despite it never lasts for a long time).

A part of enterprise 2.0 value proposal is to bring fun, some even saying that in such a context the intranet looks like a big party were all employees gather. I fully suscribe to this point of view but, at the same time, I’m very uncomfortable with it

– because I experienced it (and still doing), I can tell it changes the way you interact with others, it improves relationships and, even if I consider my internal social network as a business too, I prefer to connect to it when I open my computing rather than openning my mailbox (in addition to the fact it’s a more efficient tool too…).

– no organization would refuse to make their employees happier.

– there’s a lot of organizations (even a majority ?) where the concept of fun at work is not seen as being compatible with work. It means that employees are wasting their time and would be more productive if they didn’t have fun or that they are not busy enough. Anyway, in such organizations, most of employees don’t want managers to think they’re having fun (and managers don’t want their superiors to think they’re having fun too even if they’d like…all are human being and share the same DNA). Maybe it’s a pity but the fact is things are more complicated that we would like them to be.

– most companies would be ready to invest to make their employees happy. None to make them have fun at work. I’m not saying that no one understands how it matters, but it’s impossible to come with this argument alone in front of any executive to get fundings for such a project.

– to some extent, even if the “productivity” side of enterprise 2.0 is seducing, many organizations may fear its “funny side”, only for self-esteem and image reasons. So that’s an argument that has to be used very cautiously.

So…how to do ?

That’s the difference between the “intranet big party” and making people experience new things while doing their work. Very few organizations will buy the intranet party (what does not mean it won’t happen…), but fun can be embedded into work by :

– starting with an efficiency driven approach :  working better and more efficiently. That’s the visible part of the value proposal.

– the “fun effect”, made possible by these new interactions is considered as an hally and lucky consequence, that comes with the rest, for the same price.

– this “fun effect” can also be shown as a lever that favors adoption of new tools and practices. An “ergonomic” argument of course.

At the end that’s nothing else than a politically correct way of introducing something that seduces everybody provided they don’t have to pay for and make it become a goal.

Then, I as mentioned here, visionaries will be able to go further and embed funny systems into business tools to encourage employees to do things they used to be reluctant to because of a lack of interest or the off-puting nature of the task. Or to make them aware of new things… That’s an unexplored land on which everything has to be built from scratch and is an incredible opportunity for new innovative approaches and systems (HR…do you hear me ?)…for those who’ll dare.

Anyone who want to explore this new land should like those posts :

Game Mechanics at work in the Enterprise 2.0?

Enterprise 2.0: Social Scorecards and Social Media Karma

Anyway, if serious games are seducing more and more organizations evey day, there’s no reason why fun would be kept outside the intranet. Putting fun into work is the best way to make people more productive…and fun at work would be its logical sequel.

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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