I’ve been working on an article about ways that companies are having fun at work. When I started this project, I knew that I wanted to give it a personal feel, so I decided to turn to those who would be brutally honest and candid about their own work experiences: my friends.
With that in mind, I wrote a little email one morning to a group of about 30 of them, asking what their companies were currently doing to add an element of fun to the workplace. To my surprise, quite an outpouring of opinions and ideas came flooding back.
I must admit, I had a bit of a slip-up with Hotmail and couldn’t find the “bcc” option. Because of this, some on my email chain felt compelled to “reply all.” Although I was afraid I would be blacklisted from sending future emails as a result, I was very surprised by the level of curiosity expressed toward one another. Many friends told me that they enjoyed reading about what other people’s employers were doing – and interestingly, many on the email chain didn’t even know each other. They were just curious about the work experiences of complete strangers – and were likely comparing others’ experiences with their own career reality.
I’ve learned a few key things about employer/employee relationships as a result of this process.
1. If employees are happy, they are likely also fiercely loyal to and proud of the companies that they spend 40+ hours every week working for. This was evident in the detailed, praise-filled emails that I received back. These employees were excited and happy to work at their respective places of business – and maybe even a little boasting at times (with some of the company initiatives they wrote about, I couldn’t really blame them). They loved going to work, they enjoyed the fun events and unique perks their companies had to offer, and a couple of them even sprinkled in a “my company was voted one of the Best Places to Work 2007″ comment here and there.
Editor’s Note about Enthusiasm: A couple of friends who were excited about their companies’ fun events or perks even felt compelled to put them in bullet points for me. No one went as far as color coding, but I’ll bet with a bit more prodding, I could have brought it out of them.
2. That happiness will spread quickly. Testimonials from your own employees? This is essentially the best word of mouth advertising you can get. These employees were sharing with me – and with each other – the great things their companies did. They weren’t getting anything in return; they just wanted to help out (and to talk about their company). What does this cost the companies themselves? Nothing! Yet it gets people talking…and wondering about their own jobs. And possibly wondering if Laura’s company with four-hour Fridays is hiring…
3. In contrast, I would say the opposite about employees who are not happy. I received more than a few responses from friends who claim that their company doesn’t do anything fun. Zero. Zip. They don’t even host contests to see who can stare at their computer screens the longest without blinking.
The tone of these responses wasn’t so much angry as just defeated, disgusted, and tired. The responses themselves were even boring – short, non-descriptive, dull. Because there just wasn’t much to say.
4. It’s important to note that what your company does to help create more of a work/life balance doesn’t necessarily have to be elaborate or expensive. Even the simplest thing, like offering a free pizza lunch, build-your-own sundae event, or in-office movie showing can be a fun and social way to break up the monotony of the day. More significant than what you’re doing is the fact that you’re doing anything at all; your employees are grateful that you’re showing that you care about more than just finding out if they “got that memo.”
Bottom line: My friends are candidates, like anyone else. Put them in the right environment with the right people, benefits, and career path – and they will stick with you for the long haul. However, if you’re not doing anything to make their lives anything other than miserable, they’re going to bear the marks of being miserable. They’re going to occasionally (read: often) complain about you over beers; they’re going to start casually mentioning that they “checked out a few jobs” the other day; and, sooner or later, they’re going to actually leave you for someone else.
And then send me a raving account of all the fun things their new company does.
The Results: 15 Fun Things that Companies Really Are Doing Right Now
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