Whether you run a small business or you’re just trying to get one off the ground, having fun isn’t always a top priority. When you’re diving deep into every facet of your business, it can take months before you come up for air.
You promise yourself and others that you’re going to take a break from work obligations. That promise only lasts until the first customer calls you. Then you promise that you’ll get to see the light of day after you finish “just this one more thing.”
A business is a reflection of its leadership. How we choose to take charge shows up in company culture, for better or for worse. Customers can sense when you’re wound too tight. And when leadership encourages employees to schedule routine fun throughout the days, weeks, and months, everyone’s productivity and engagement levels dramatically improve.
Check out these tips to inject more fun into your work environment:
Getting Into the Rhythm
Most of us are familiar with circadian rhythm or “body clock.” Similarly, in a workplace context, you have an optimal cycle for how long you can work until you need to take a break. A sleep researcher, Nathaniel Kleitman, is credited for discovering the “basic rest-activity cycle”—also called the ultradian rhythm.
Ultradian rhythms are shorter, recurrent patterns in our circadian day. Each person has an optimal cycle for how long they can work before needing a break.
Just as each person has unique nightly sleep needs, a person’s work break needs to occur every 90 to 120 minutes per ultradian cycle.
Amazing, right? Once you discover your ultradian rhythm, you can then build a schedule that supports it. The fastest way to find your unique workday ultradian rhythm is through—you guessed it—experimentation. Encourage your employees to experiment and determine their rhythm too. This will help get the ball rolling on having more fun in the workplace.
Now that you know when to step back from work, fill it with short, meaningful breaks. Encourage others on your team to do the same. While it is ultimately the individual’s responsibility to take the breaks, make employees feel confident and empowered to take mini-breaks throughout the day. Leading by example, talking about the shift to more meaningful breaks, and scheduling longer monthly breaks will set the wheels in motion.
Ideas for Bite-Sized Breaks:
- What did you used to do for fun? Think back to when you were younger, much younger. Heck, before puberty. Think about your grade school recess. What did you do for fun then? Now, what is the grown-up equivalent of that? Your place of business may not have monkey bars or a kickball field, but perhaps you can play frisbee with friends outside or go for an exploratory hike.
- Watch Funny Videos. Prefer something more passive and screen-oriented? Boost your endorphins by laughing at silly YouTube videos for 10-15 minutes. It may seem like mindless fluff, but meaningful enjoyment, no matter the content, can promote success.
Occasionally you or your company may want to consider a “next-level” hiatus. Try to make these off-site or outside of the office. If you all work remotely, it may take a bit more creativity depending on your distance from each other, but with the magic of video conferencing, there are ways to make it work.
Ideas for “Next Level” Breaks:
- Play Date. Many companies become the facilitators of unstructured playtime. Kiva.org, a microfinance charity, affords their employees 30 minutes each day to eat snacks, listen to music, and joke around. LinkedIn’s InDays are entire days dedicated to self-directed fun at work.
- Field Trip. Company offsites can be fun. However, if an executive selects, for example, bowling as a company offsite, you might lose interest from employees who aren’t interested in bowling. Look for open-ended opportunities for self-directed play. Company picnics and barbeques might be better for keeping your company bonding experience from becoming a boring company experience.
Time to Act
If you’re ready to add more fun to your work environment, create an action plan. Work with your team to see the change come to fruition. Start by scheduling a meeting with your team to discuss the following questions:
- What are some ways to facilitate more meaningful, self-planned breaks daily or multiple times per day? (Think of these as occurring every 90 minutes or so, and lasting about 10-20 minutes.)
- What about on a weekly basis? (Think of these as lasting one to three hours.)
- What might we do on a monthly/quarterly basis? (Think of these as lasting a half-day to one day.)
- What can we do annually?
Your team is the greatest group of potential advocates—or detractors—your company can have. Imagine a plethora of people who continually rave about your company to others because you’ve made it so simple to enjoy a workday! That’s the kind of marketing goodwill no PR company can buy for you. It all begins with making fun an essential part of your productivity strategy.
Author: Dave Crenshaw is the master of building productive leaders and has transformed hundreds of thousands of business leaders worldwide. He has appeared in TIME magazine, USA Today, Fast Company, and the BBC News. His courses on LinkedIn Learning have received millions of views. He has written three books and counting, including The Myth of Multitasking which was published in six languages and is a time-management bestseller. His fourth book, The Power of Having Fun, releases September 19th. Learn more about Dave at DaveCrenshaw.com and follow @davecrenshaw on Twitter.