Stressed out because the economic crisis is forcing your major corporate funder to close its doors or merge? Anxious about the election? Sometimes, the only thing to do is to stop pulling your hair out, take a break from working like a crazed lunatic, and try to have a little fun at work. Sadly, fun at work sounds like an oxymoron to lots of people.
But not to Blue Avocado contributor Janice Clark, the queen of fun. (Janice is the author of our recent piece on nonprofits and sports.) Some of her ideas:
How to have fun at work? Not by sitting at your computer by yourself, but fun that involves interacting with coworkers. Okay, not easy when you work in Washington, DC, but I do have some experience planning fun things so maybe…
Keeping the Balls in the Air
Participate in a wacky physical activity! I once volunteered at a scientific research lab where every day at lunch in the summer they play volleyball. It’s fun, especially for the young interns. Kickball is an even more accessible option. It takes less athleticism, is easy to teach and the game is readily available. Physical activities are endorphin-filled, team building and fun. And if you work in the city, part of the wackiness can come in finding a nearby park, rooftop or low-traffic nearby street to play in. Even a quick game can be a welcome break.
Practical jokes are a little dicier. There is a fine line between fun and mean spiritedness and you really have to know your coworkers so that practical jokes don’t poison the atmosphere. At my husband Kelly’s job the staff often play silly jokes on each other. The same metallic bumper sticker that says I have erectile dysfunction randomly shows up on employee’s cars. Occasionally, when a staff member gets an equipment delivery, coworkers will open the package and replace the new equipment with the old, malfunctioning unit. Once when a staff member returned from a trip to Disney World, the song It’s A Small World played whenever he opened a computer file.
Kelly believes that he conceived the ultimate practical joke. He portrayed himself as the victim of a kidnapping of his favorite coffee cup. He took a picture of the cup and put it in the cabinet with a ransom note requiring that a haiku be written and posted in the kitchen in order that it be returned. He continued to post bizarre ransom notes while everyone tried to figure out who had kidnapped the cup. No one ever found out. It just returned one day. This joked worked well because there was such a prevalence of jokes at the workplace.
Ordinary potlucks can be a groaner. What? I have to go home and cook tonight on top of everything else? But themed potlucks are a great way to get together and provide a topic outside of work to talk about over lunch. Potlucks can have cuisine theme. American food potlucks are always challenging and can result in dishes such as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and corndogs. While typically potlucks tend to have regional themes, you can add to the fun by getting creative with other themes. Why not focus the meal on specific food items, for example? Ingredients can run from the mundane (potatoes) to the absurd (cornflakes).
Scavenger hunts can be great fun and can be done with items on the job, e.g., a red stapler, and have individual or teams of participants.
Without a little fun at work, these stressful times can get overwhelming. A little light-heartedness never hurt anybody. And everybody should do their part to debunk the idea that community workers take themselves much too seriously.
But just so we don’t get even more stressed out trying to think up things to do, why don’t you share your own Fun at Work activities by posting them here in Comments?
Janice Clark has worked in the nonprofit housing and community development field for nearly 15 years. She’s on staff in the communications department of a national nonprofit based in Washington, DC, and volunteers to support arts activities in her hometown of Annapolis, Maryland. Janice has been an amateur athlete for 35 years, playing volleyball, softball and whatever other pickup game she can get into.
We had a hula hoop contest and some great laughs.
I used to work for a battered women’s shelter with a 24 hour crisis telephone line. About once a month in the summer on a Friday we would call forward the phone to one of the staff’s mother’s house and answer the crisis line from her mom’s swimming pool in the back yard.
Bocce ball takes a lot less space and is easily portable to the park of the front lawn. No special space is needed. Heck, you can even play in the parking lot if you have to!
Formal Friday. Everyone has heard of Fan Friday, but what about a day where everyone dresses up? Tuxedos, top hats, formal gowns. Most of us own something fancy that we hardly ever get to wear. So, set the date and then, have a mid-afternoon cheese and cracker party.