Should Work Be More Fun?

November 30th, 2010 12 Comments

This post is full of impressions and assumptions. Don’t expect much fact or supporting data.

I read about generational differences with interest, pretty sure everyone does. People love to belong, and I find myself blindly defending my generation or characterizing another for no good reason.

Paraphrasing the late George Carlin, pride should be reserved for something you achieve or attain on your own, not something that happens by accident of birth.

But still, we all do it.

Anyway, one generational difference cited by many is that young people (a.k.a. Millenials) expect work to be fun, or at least engaging. Since adults will spend a vast amount of their lives working, shouldn’t that time be more enjoyable?

Gen X’ers and Boomers generally find this to be laughably naive and downright selfish. For us, work has always been work; we get paid, so fun is optional. We’re also accustomed to the idea that work is not play and vice versa, separating the two religiously.

Unfortunately, advancing technology makes it increasingly tough to separate the two. So why is it so whacky that work be fun or at least more enjoyable?

Yeah, I know some people love their work, every single day, but for most, work is, at least sometimes, unloveable.

Should companies do more to make work enjoyable? Some do already, most notably companies that hire young people.

Or is this an unfortunately naive position that isn’t (and won’t be) founded in reality?

My take is pretty simple and hasn’t changed since I touched on this a couple years ago. Work should be more enjoyable, and making it so can be done without installing twisty slides between floors and pool tables.

I guess my small part is trying to make what we use for work more pleasant (or less unpleasant), and overall, I think we could all do with a little more enjoyment from our work.

What do you think? Find the comments.


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12 Responses to “Should Work Be More Fun?”

  1. John Sim Says:

    I feel a majority of work being fun or not is down to the people you interact with on a daily basis.. I love the work I do.. and working with the right team who work well together is essential..

    I believe the majority of stress at the end of the day is not down to your daily job but who you work with or for.

    But I like the twisty slide idea.. I bet google have that installed..

  2. Jake Says:

    Actually, I first saw the twisty slide at Excite’s first real campus, after they moved from the tiny space over by SGI (remember them?) in about 1997. The original dot-coms had that “fun” stuff all over the place bc no one ever went home.

    I partially agree that your colleges can make work fun, but the work itself is a pretty important. I’m speaking in the abstract too, not the specific. I think we can agree that not everyone loves what they do, even if they love their colleagues.

  3. John E. Bredehoft (Empoprises) Says:

    This may be a matter of personal preference rather than generational preference, although the younger generation admittedly skews toward the “make work fun.”

    It’s been fascinating to watch the reaction to Arizona quarterback Derek Anderson’s sideline levity during a game in which Arizona was losing, and the very different attitude that Anderson displayed during the post-game press conference when he was asked about the levity. Would Anderson prefer to be playful but was told to be serious? The (much older) Don Meredith also displayed both the playful and serious sides of his nature during his playing career and subsequent broadcasting career.

  4. Jake Says:

    That whole Anderson thing is a tempest in teapot. Football is a game that fans take far too seriously. There really is no analogue for typical work, except maybe tweets or blog posts from outside observers who aren’t customers and have no tangible vested interest.

    If anything, it’s funny that Anderson can find humor in his obviously tenuous employment, akin to a borderline colleague laughing it up at work as the Bobs (Office Space reference) call people in to interview for their jobs.

    Anyway, more to your point I think Anderson got an earful from his coach before the press conference. This is similar to a blog post or tweet getting someone into hot water. Although many might call that inability to enjoy work, it’s more common sense than anything.

    I guess appropriateness and fun get confused :)

  5. uvox Says:

    I am not sure the word ‘fun’ applies. But I think work should be enjoyable. Pretty much the clincher for me is the people around me. I don’t care much for fussball tables, beach volleyball or having to sit on mushrooms in the meeting room. Can’t always have it that way, so generally I try to remember Oscar Wilde’s words: “It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.”

  6. Jake Says:

    Why doesn’t fun apply to work? This is the rub that prevents acceptance of ideas that might create enjoyment at work outside the expected.

  7. uvox Says:

    Why conflate ‘fun’ with ‘enjoyment’? Can’t you enjoy work because you like a challenge? Or the pressure relieved after a deadline achieved? Or recognition for hard work? Don’t see what that has to do with accepting ideas. To be frank, I never know what to expect anyway on a given day, but that’s what makes it interesting to me. ‘Fun’ for me is a personal space.

  8. Jake Says:

    That’s exactly the mindset that is causing issues between generations, right-wrong-indifferent. What motivated us and our parents does not work for younger workers, again right-wrong-indifferent. Therefore, companies are being forced to find other motivators.

    Plus, our jobs are very different than many front line office jobs, e.g. I couldn’t last a day as a Payables clerk or a buyer.

  9. Joonas Says:

    I saw a research recently that argued that the importance of work to a person (in contrast to spare time / family time) diminishes as the level of education rises, so making work enjoyable / rewarding / captivating is essential especially among employers seeking to attract highly-trained experts. In other words, it’s not only a generational thing.

  10. Luc Glasbeek Says:

    I’ve mentioned the “fun theory” in a recent blog post – http://carrotsnotsticks.com/2010/11/26/speed-cameras-can-only-be-sticks-right/

    I think fun is important because it’s an inherent driver for changing human behaviour, as the video in the blog post illustrates.

    If quiting smoking was fun, it’d be a lot easier. If dieting was fun, there’d be a lot less obesity. If work was fun, the economic output of (potential) knowledge-workers would surge (and sick leave be greatly reduced). At least that’s what I like to think – hard to find the “data to proof it” ;-)

    Fun to me is a word representing a complexity probably not yet fully understood – and work being enjoyable in my mind is surely part of it.

  11. Jake Says:

    Exactly.

    I’m sure there’s brain research tying the part of the brain that registers fun to other areas of productivity.

    The problem is that work-should-be-fun has overlapped whiny-millenial-kids-in-the-workplace, so people Gen X and Boomers have an emotional reaction that loses the real value of the message.

  12. Jake Says:

    Related to the direct proportion of salary to education no doubt and inverse proportion of expertise in any given field.

    I agree it’s not only a generational thing. Lately, it’s been brought to the fore by that bogus argument though.

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