Work can be fun

Photo by David Siglin

Fun at work is important. We only unleash our full potential when we enjoy what we are doing. Besides, 40 hours a week is too much time to mope. Of course, not everything on the job is always fun, but this is about the general attitude and some flashes of light.

A few years ago, a Japanese guy joined our team in Frankfurt. It was his first visit to Europe, and everything was new for him. The first days he was very shy and serious. During the coffee break, we asked him – worried about his well-being. He told us that he had been told back in Japan that in Germany it’s inappropriate to have fun at work. For Germans, work is a serious matter. At first, we were irritated and then laughed heartily about it. To better integrate him into the team, we asked him to teach us a Japanese character and a Japanese word for 5 minutes every day. He had fun with our pronunciation, but more important the real purpose was fulfilled: The ice was broken and he suddenly dared to ask questions in case of ambiguities about work topics instead of programming anything saving his face.

When I had the honor to take over a department in a bank, I noticed that fun was not seen as part of the work there. All of them were very competent in their area of responsibility and had many years of experience. A team you can only wish for. Of course, there were also the usual human tensions – just as it is when you are together for a longer period. I irritated them very much: At the first big meeting, I asked them to have fun at work, and I picked a catchy slogan. My reasoning was quite simple: You know what you’re doing. And if you like doing it, you’ll not only get better, plus you’ll have more fun doing it. The change took some time, but the smile came back.

In a seminar, I always add “having fun” to the list of expectations. If the topic is not addressed by any of the participants, I add it myself. We learn better when we have fun. Complicated combinations of numbers can be noticed with funny sentences, every laugh anchors the knowledge deeper into the consciousness. Can you still remember all the boring script pages at university or the long pages of a PowerPoint presentation at a board meeting? But we rarely forget the story, the picture or the situation that made us laugh. Do you remember…

The old master speaker Cicero already knew that. He put a lot of thought into the right introduction – “Captatio Benevolentiae” – obtaining the goodwill. Within the first five movements, the audience decides whether they like you or not. Then you have opened their hearts and can accommodate your messages. So, you only need two things for a good speech: a few keywords and a good joke to lighten the mood. If the audience laughs, you are already halfway there. The content will flow anyway because you know your subject.

For the analysts among us, there are even quantitative models like the Happiness index. Instead of waiting for the HR department’s annual satisfaction surveys, you can ask the team about the mood before every meeting. “How happy are you today?” is a good start to bring the worries to the table – plus you avoid the trap of the shallow “How are you?”, on which nobody expects a deeper answer.

As a German in Vienna, that’s especially important. We Germans don’t have the best reputation for humor. Viennese, on the other hand, are proud of their “Schmäh”, with which brings a smile into everyday life. The right amount of humor opens the doors here.

Fun releases dopamine and dopamine makes you happy. Just when everything’s going wrong again: make sure to get your daily dose. That frees and opens the mind for searching for solutions to the challenges.

How about you?

Have you had fun at work today?

Do you actively use humorous elements to relax the atmosphere at work or to better anchor your messages?

Have you cracked a bad joke at work?

Further good reads:

The Happniess index

Captatio Benevolentiae

10 Tips für mehr Spass bei der Arbeit

Translation into English supported by DeepL and Grammarly

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