Humour at Work (Part 4): The Practitioners
US company Ben & Jerry ice cream manufacturer, have pushed fun in the office to extremes. with employees looking forward to Barry Manilow or Elvis days; on which everyone is encouraged to dress as Barry or Elvis and their music is blasted through the building.
There are chocolate days giving them the chance to dip anything they fancy – edible or otherwise – into a vat of chocolate. Other ideas have included dog days, during which the family pet can have a free flea dip, while its owner enjoys a hot dog. There is even a Grateful Dead day, named after the West Coast rock band. Lee Holden of Ben & Jerry is certain this approach to work has helped retain staff, boost morale, build trust between managers and staff, and kept the business growing.
Fun in the Office Strategies
- Companies have formed Fun Committees, made up of employees; whose job it is to inject a spirit of fun, merriment and mirth into the workplace. This can be done through a series of social events, by way of company or department days out. Celebrating staff birthdays, making sure they have a signed card and small gift. These may seem simplistic ideas; but it still remains a responsibility for someone in the office, to make sure they are carried out. So many initiatives are started but never completed, once the initial excitement finishes.
- Laughter/Fun Rooms are places where staff can go during lunch or coffee breaks, even after work; which contain social activities for them to get involved with. Comedy DVD’s, cartoons. pool tables, computer games, punch bag (stress release), dart board and table tennis; are all functions which can be contained in such a room.
- Internal Communication. It is felt that only 15% of employees read their company reports. The reason being that such reports are often dull or boring and distinctly unimaginative. Emails, memos, faxes, telephone messages, bulletin boards, goal sheets and minutes of meetings; which are presented humorously, imaginatively or with creative forethought tend to give pleasure, make a point and inspire a productive, positive response.
- Form a departmental or group syndicate which does the lottery each week. This should build team spirit through excitement and achievement, if and when something is won.
- Make sure there is a humorous page and cartoons in the companies magazine or newsletter. If the organisation doesn’t have one, then start one.
The late Mark Mc Cormack chairman and founder of IMG (leading sports management group) said: “Common sense aside… the most important asset in business is a sense of humour, an ability to laugh at yourself or the situation. Laughter is the most potent, constructive force for diffusing business tension: so be the one who controls it”.
Companies wishing to start a Fun Strategy in the office, need not come on like the Marx Brothers. A strategy can come from the staff, rather than department heads or managing directors; as long as top management is in favour of such a course of action. If they are not, the initiative is likely to go underground within employee cliques and groups of workers, who will use humour in a destructive way which can be detrimental to the overall organisation.
The company must first look at its culture. What works in one firm may not work in another. Good man managers understand that each individual is different and needs a different approaches. The same is true with humour, people are amused by different things; so find out what makes the company tick.
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Matthew Willetts MA is the Director of Comicus who has over 35 years experience in television, film, theatre, and comedy club/cabaret entertainment, working as a performer, screenwriter, producer and agent. He lectured at Southampton Solent University in Comedy, Screenwriting, Television, Theatre & Radio. Matthew can sometimes be seen and heard on TV & Radio and often quoted in the national press and media publications. As well as speaking regularly at festivals and industry conferences, he has been a judge at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Montreux Television Festival.