Some days, work feels like, well, work. Even at The Second City, where our job is to create fun experiences for our audiences, we sometimes forget to have fun. The challenge of creating comedy under a deadline while appealing to critics, producers and tourists from Kankakee to California is no easy feat.
“Anybody, in any position, can take ownership for putting the Fun back into the work environment. Along the way, you just might change the company culture for good.”
Whether you create comedy or cars or consulting plans, you’re working toward a goal. Results are required, but fun is not. Nobody promised you that getting a paycheck would be fun, unless you fell for that sexy LinkedIn job posting promising a ‘Fun, fast-moving work environment.’ Then, once you got there, it was so fast-moving that nobody had time to have fun.
Of course, it can’t all be fun, but it can certainly be more fun. Here are easy tricks to create more fun while still respecting the bottom line:
The fun starts with you! Stop waiting for others to create fun, and get things started by creating opportunities for Play. Don’t think of Play as just playing on those Ping-Pong tables your company bought back when it was a startup. Think of Play as the freedom to test ideas through trial and error without fear of failure. If you can create opportunities to lower the stakes around ideation, you can make it more playful, which makes it more fun.
At your next brainstorming meeting, have everybody start by generating the “World’s Worst” ideas. Instantly, you lower the stakes for people to contribute. Plus, you might even discover an idea that seems terrible at first blush, but opens the door to terrific solutions later on.
One big source of comedy is the recognition of patterns, like when a comedian goes on a rant about how much we all hate it when people stop at the top of escalators. Fun can be built into a company’s culture by recognizing and codifying the trends and quirks that are already at play. At Second City’s annual holiday party, there is always a show that parodies life inside the theater. In it, the recent scenes from our stage shows are re-purposed to lampoon life behind the scenes in the theater. People across the company find themselves represented as the archetypes from our stage shows. Beyond the send-up of life behind the curtain, it has the affect of recognizing the contributions and beloved quirks of the players across the company.
Find ways tocelebrate and articulate the quirks and patterns within your team. Is somebody like the Traffic Cop? Does somebody hit the ground running in the wee hours of the morning? Is a particular quarter the one where you all feel like firefighters putting out crises? Putting a name on these patterns can create a sense of cohesion and recognition within a team. Along the way, you might even help everybody understand the unspoken roles that everybody takes.
The other source of comedy is the breaking of patterns. Gentle disruption of the status quo can be a great source of fun by removing the heaviness around the grunt work and helping everybody to feel more present and engaged. Meetings are a huge source of entrenched behavior and a great place to start.
Mix it up. Hold your meeting in a new spot or just find a creative way to get people to sit in a new spot in the room. Flip the agenda – start with the business you would normally end with. Build in variety – ask everybody to theme his or her part of the presentation to an appropriate classic rock song. Or have music playing when everybody comes in. Most of us have suffered through so many terrible meetings that a little fun goes a long way.
Finally, a word on the topic of adding graphic memes to your e-mails. You know, those catchy animated gifs or iconic image re-purposed with an ironic title that people love to insert at the bottom of an e-mail? True, they can be an easy way to drop in a bit of fun. They might also be a fast-pass ticket to a meeting with HR if used in the wrong way.
Anybody, in any position, can take ownership for putting the Fun back into the work environment. Along the way, you just might change the company culture for good.
About the Author:
Andy Eninger is a writer, director and performer based in Chicago in the great state of Illinois. For Second City Works, he designs and leads learning programs for Fortune 500 clients. He was the head of Second City’s Writing Program from 2011 to 2016.