Beyond Casual Friday: Energizing The Workplace With Fun


The battle against boredom is one of the toughest that we fight in the workplace. The job that seems so fresh and exciting in our first years can grind its way into monotony as we move from learning routines to getting stuck in a rut.

Many workplaces have recognized this over the years. They have tried to shake things up a little bit with things like “Casual Friday,” when dress code rules are relaxed and employees can show up in jeans and other more comfortable clothing.

But sure enough, even Casual Friday has started to become routine now, and instead of being something that people look forward to, it’s now something that they have to add to their calendars to make sure they don’t show up as the only one in khakis.

A truly revolutionary workplace is one that finds the fun in everyday activities. Sales departments are using leaderboard software to make frequent updates to sales totals, showing top producers at the top of the standings and spurring those behind him or her to push ahead to catch up. What works about this system is that it stays fresh; every day, there’s an update, so the leaderboard never just blends into the scenery like a stale motivational poster.

How do you capture that type of energy in a workplace? What can you do to get your personnel to enjoy their work a little more and consequently become more productive?

It’s not a matter of installing silliness. Indeed, the goal is to get people to be more serious than ever about their work but to do it in a positive, lighthearted way instead of an authoritarian way. What you want to do is to banish the humdrum feeling and create a feeling among workers that something different will happen at work…every single day.

For the wired workplace, invade people’s devices. Create an app for your workplace, and send notifications when certain thresholds are met. The leaderboard system could be carried this way (a better option when most sales personnel are on the road) so that everybody stays in tune. Just don’t let it supplant the socialized sharing on a physical leaderboard in a common area. Camaraderie is part of the goal, so let the system bring people together.

Schools have been legendary with rewarding goals with kids. Principals and teachers have kissed pigs, shaved their heads, and slept on the school roof to motivate the students. Let the workers see the human side of management. Create a March Madness-style bracket for management and workers to pair up in a video game tournament. Seed the workers with their productivity goals; top producer plays the CEO, #2 plays CFO, and so on. It’s amazing how different people feel when they can humiliate their boss in a video game, and the change in relationships will be palpable.

One thing that helps people push ahead with productivity is seeing a concrete reward. For many, it’s just not enough to see a dollar figure or an item count on a summary sheet. They want something tangible for themselves.

A classic method of documenting progress toward a fundraiser is a giant paper thermometer, with additions to the “temperature” for each donation. The same model can work for other purposes.

For example, if the goal is safety, you add to the tally for each day that there are no accidents. You might also add bonus progress in lump sums for special considerations, such as repair projects or equipment upgrades that are successfully completed. When the “temperature” hits the top, you can have a cookout, cake, or some other reward. The great thing about this method is that it’s low-tech, a better option in certain workplaces.

Motivating workers can do more toward the other goals of a company than an array of other grasping efforts. If workers clock in or sign on each day with that little bit of anticipation–what will they do today?–they have a positive energy that carries over into their whole day. It takes time and effort to keep the supply of ideas up, but it can do more for the company than countless hours spent otherwise.