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How to make work fun -- even when it isn't

I love what I do for a living but I used to like it that much more when I would go to the office and there was a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow reporters. 

Let's face it, some people don't consider their jobs fun but they do feel like the people they work with are fun to be around.

When we're striving for work life balance, it helps to work in a place with camaraderie. That's what I think makes a job fun. Have you ever seen tv shows where doctors are doing a surgical procedure but they're talking each other and even making jokes? We all know surgery is pretty serious but watching the banter makes me want to get in there, put my scrubs on and join in.

Jac Fitz-enz is founder and CEO of the Human Capital Source and The Predictive Initiative has this take on what makes work fun.

Amy Lyman, co-founder of the Great Place to Work Institute, says her organization has have found five factors that make a great workplace — credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie. This is topped off by the magic factor, trust.

As Bob Levering, the organization’s other co-founder, summed up, it is fun to work there.

Nowhere does it say free lunch, games or the things we read about at places like Facebook and Google. My experience in walking around the fun companies shows that what makes work fun are most of the factors in the research presented here.

How can it be fun to sit at a computer writing code until your fingertips have blisters and your eyes bug out? Yet when I watch the people, I see them smiling, laughing and crunching their way through 50-hour weeks. Where’s the fun?

Fun comes from two factors. One is they really like the work and they feel achievement. Second, they can turn to a co-worker and share something interesting about the work. This is the camaraderie spirit.

But can you find as much interest in a rubber gasket factory? Maybe it’s not as exciting as new computer apps, yet where would we be without gaskets? Machines can’t function without gaskets. The point: A company doesn’t exist unless it fulfills a need, and it is up to management to keep that vision in front of the workforce.

Here’s an opposite example. Ten years ago Yahoo Inc. was an exciting place to work. It was among the leading search engines. People wanted to work there. But in the past five years management lost its way and the company lost market share. People who used to work from home and be very productive slowly lost their motivation.

When Marissa Mayer came in as CEO, she saw what was happening and significantly reduced the work-from-home option. She had to get control before she could turn Yahoo around and make it a fun place to work again.

At the end of the day, the lesson is: If you want a great company, you have to make it a great place to work. The basic elements of that are a shared vision, a trust-based atmosphere and, of course, interesting work.

Rather than concentrating on free lunches and dry cleaning, focus on the elements that make the workscape a place that can be fun and intrinsically rewarding.


Are employers going about creating "fun" workplaces the wrong way? What do you think makes a fun workplace?