Win at work while having fun? It seems counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

In our blog post of two weeks ago, we looked at five ways to make fun at work meaningful.

One of the key ways we discussed is to ensure you connect fun to success. 

In Fun, Success Matters Most

So much of the time, we aim to create “fun” as an experience for our teams by adding new non-work activities to the schedule. 

Making a “culture of having fun” is fine. But not when “having fun” just for the sake of it often leaves people feeling more stressed than when they started.

Because just “having fun” with real-life volleyball days or online cocktail parties doesn’t save them time at work or help them get their job done.

In fact, usually it’s the opposite. Traditional team-building exercises and “fun days” just take up extra time. These activities either cut into everyone’s personal lives or invest valuable work time into distraction.

Either way, this ends up getting in the way of results. When what we need and hopefully want is for fun to support effective outcomes.

Winning is Fun

As we said in our previous article, professional athletes get paid the same whether they win or lose. But there is no doubt that, no matter how much they earn, most pros enjoy winning more. There is no greater team-building activity than achieving together. We can best measure satisfaction via success metrics.

If you doubt that, become clear that success simply means reaching your goals.

So if your goal is to spend more time with your family in the evenings, doing that makes you feel successful.

This same principle applies to whatever matters to you.

Fun Helps You Win

It’s not rocket science. Although there is science involved. Study after study makes it obvious. A positive mindset aligns with 30% greater productivity. Research from BrightHR showed that four out of five graduates believe fun at work is essential and that 60% of those who had not recently taken sick days reported having fun at work. And since this was already six years ago, most of those graduates are already entering positions of authority.

There are many more such studies. A lot of them were done even a decade ago. These days fulfilment at work is more critical than ever before, so we can be sure that new studies will find the importance of fun at work to be higher than ever.

“Hard Work” Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

Most people have a background conversation that work has to be “hard.” Something you don’t ultimately like. Yet the basic definition of work is just something like “an activity involving effort to achieve a result.” Nothing in there about it being unpleasant or even difficult. 

It’s been centuries since work meant pulling rocks up a mountain to build monuments. Yet much of the time we still act like if we don’t feel that kind of stress and distress during our work hours, something is wrong. 

Automation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution is making happiness at work more attainable. In the very near future, far fewer people will work in assembly lines or doing “drudge” work.

We Want to Win at What We Care About

So yes, winning is fun. And fun helps you win. But not “Full stop.” There’s one more step to the story. 

Of course, we all want to stretch ourselves and do our best. But the most efficient way to do our best is not to be unhappy or dissatisfied. It’s to give ourselves the best chance to excel. 

And the best way to excel is to work toward outcomes that matter to us.

This is the part that most often gets left out.

Fulfillment is actually very close to fun. Yes, both begin with the letter “f”. But also what means the most to human beings ultimately at work is that we can align our own individual purpose with the organization’s goals. 

We have fun when we are doing things in an enjoyable way toward a purpose we believe in. AND achieving what we set out toward.

The formula for having fun at work is actually very simple.

Purpose + Success = Fulfillment.

Let’s look at four practical ways to make this happen.

1. Set goals that are fun to achieve and find fun ways to achieve goals

Make self-improvement part of the goal set. Not just learning and development style self-improvement, although that is also important.

Work need not be drudgery. Find ways to make goals fun. Yes, badges and rewards can help. But in the end, remember, it’s success that makes people happy – and happiness that makes people successful. 

How can you make the goals you need to reach actually contribute to your people’s skill sets and what they care about?

2. Include goals that contribute to effectiveness

Traditionally we think that people should keep themselves mentally and physically fit in their own spare time. But is this reasonable or effective? 

Too often people skip these essential basic steps because they have too much to do. And yet, regular exercise can lead to a 72% increase in time management and workload completed. Exercise reduces stress, overcomes fatigue, improves performance and leads to fewer sick day absences. 

Do the math. Pay your people to exercise half an hour per day and get a minimum of five or six extra hours of productivity during the rest of their time.

Give them time to do the same with their minds. Mental fitness is at least as important as physical, right? The most innovative companies allot time in the schedule for the employee to do innovative activities that are not part of their task list. Notice the use of “innovative” twice in that sentence? 

3. Let employees be involved in setting their goals

We measure goals in statistics like ORKs and KPIs. This means there is an added element: does the employee care about the meaning behind these stats?

The easiest way to ensure this alignment is to bring the employee into the goal conversation and listen to their input. If a person is working toward ends they have helped set themselves, they will without doubt enjoy the process more. 

Their enjoyment, in like fashion, will make them more productive and more likely to reach the goals. And when they do reach the goals, they will feel more fulfilled having reached a goal that matters to them.

4. Where fun is for practice, practice skills that help you win

As we pointed out at the top of this article, most “team-building” has nothing to do with the job. Instead, conduct team-building that actually helps the team work better together.

For example, in including employees in the goal-setting process, does this mean you are supposed to just let everyone have a free-for-all doing whatever they want? Of course not. 

One of the best ways to give maximum responsibility to each member of the team while keeping things aligned is to be transparent and let the team participate in the process of setting goals with one another. This provides group accountability and ensures that everything fits together nicely. 

So do that in a fun way. Find games that assist in goal-setting. Increase the collaboration levels of your team by making communication safe and enjoyable. As with fitness, make sure you allocate time in everyone’s schedule for them to support one another. 

At Innovation Minds, our new AT THE EDGE Engagement Solution for Hybrid Work helps you do just that. We make it easy for your team to collaborate, deliver, and engage, leading to a radical transformation in your company’s culture of enjoyable effectiveness. Implementing this solution can make your workplace more productive AND more fun.

We’d love to show you how it works. Give us a shout!


Michael Lee, SVP Strategy and Marketing, Innovation Minds