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Dave Crenshaw


The ROI of Having Fun

Daily, weekly, and monthly breaks are an investment with a small upfront cost

Published: Thursday, January 18, 2018 - 13:02

According to a poll conducted by Harris and the University of Phoenix, 59 percent of American workers wish they were in a different career. For employees in their 30s, that number is right around 73 percent. Employees disliking their jobs may be nothing new, but pushing to make the workday more enjoyable is something employers should take action on. Unfortunately, making the workplace fun simply isn’t a top priority for most employers. They don’t yet realize what they stand to lose.

Having fun at work isn’t about employees goofing off. It can lead to so much more. A study by the Harvard Business Review and the Energy Project found that when a supervisor encouraged team members to take regular breaks, employees were 81 percent more likely to stay with the company and had a 78-percent increase in their sense of healthiness and well-being. Additionally, those who took breaks at least every 90 minutes reported a 40-percent increase in creative thinking and a 28 percent improvement in focus.

Having fun at work will lead to increased productivity and happier employees.

How does fun apply to the workplace?

Making the workday more fun starts by taking meaningful, bite-sized breaks during the normal work schedule. Whether a company is a multinational behemoth with tens of thousands of employees or a small startup, fun breaks at the office are vital to a team’s productivity. These small breaks should take place every 90–120 minutes each workday. Occasionally, the company may want to consider a “next-level” or extended hiatus once per week or so.

Although employees are ultimately responsible for taking their own breaks, the leadership of the company and midlevel managers can do a lot to encourage breaks. That begins by talking openly about the shift toward more meaningful breaks; scheduling longer, monthly breaks will motivate them even more.

Time is money

Instituting daily, weekly, and monthly breaks is an investment with a small upfront cost. Some C-level execs may intuitively see the value of adopting a culture that incorporates more fun. Some may need a little convincing. Let me help you out by considering what you might stand to lose.

Imagine losing your best sales rep at your company. This is the earning machine that used to take pride in burning the midnight oil while hitting those numbers. The person then begins the rapid descent toward total burnout. She becomes unresponsive. She starts calling in sick. Next thing you know she’s fielding offers from fun-loving competitors and, just like that, she’s gone.

What is the cost of that shakeup? Thousands of dollars? Tens of thousands? Those hiring, firing, transition, and retraining costs, and possible headhunter fees will add up faster than a math professor counting cards in Vegas.

Next, consider the potential benefit from a 2-percent increase in productivity due to implementing a more fun-based approach to the workplace. Based on field experience, I would estimate that the boost you get from taking small, meaningful breaks is closer to 5 to 15 percent. But 2 percent is a nice, safe, conservative estimate. This would yield one extra work week of gained productivity from every employee, every single year. What’s the ROI for that kind of a boost?

Also, weigh the impact of new referrals from both potential customers and employees. Employees are the greatest group of potential advocates—or detractors—a company can have. Imagine a plethora of people who continually rave about a company to others because you’ve made it so simple for them to enjoy their workday! That’s the kind of marketing goodwill no PR company can buy.

Time to act

Do you see the value in adding more fun to your office environment? Then it is time to create an action plan. If you’re not the one calling the shots (yet), discuss this article with leadership and work together to see the change come to fruition. Start by scheduling a meeting with the key decision makers or your team to discuss the following questions:
• Does our company appreciate and understand the value of having fun? If not, what can we do to help leadership buy into the positive benefits?
• Are we aware when team members need breaks? How can we help team members take meaningful, self-planned breaks multiple times per day? (Think of these as occurring every 90 minutes or so, and lasting about 10–20 minutes).
• What might we do on a monthly basis as a larger, fun diversion from work? (Think of these as lasting a half-day to one day).
• Are we encouraging people to use vacation time in a meaningful way? What improvements can we make to help team members better disconnect from work when on vacation?

No matter where you sit on the organizational chart of your company, you have the ability to effect productive change far more than you realize. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen companies that have changed for the better simply because one employee had the courage to speak up and share something that they learned. That gentle push of the domino started a chain reaction all the way to the top. Even if you don’t influence the whole company, you can certainly influence your inner circle of co-workers and find a way to have a little fun every day.

Make having fun an essential part of your productivity strategy.

First published Jan. 8, 2018, on the ThoughtLeaders blog.


About The Author

Dave Crenshaw’s picture

Dave Crenshaw

Dave Crenshaw is a productive leadership mentor and author. He has written four books, including The Myth of Multitasking (Jossey-Bass, 2009),which was published in six languages and is a time management bestseller; and his latest book, The Power of Having Fun (Berrett-Koehler, 2017).