Maximise employee engagement by promoting Fun at Work (1/2)

You might be thinking “Why would I want to promote fun at work? I run a serious business.” After all, fun is the opposite of work, right? 

In fact, it isn’t! The opposite of work is idleness! And the opposite of fun is boredom. 

Let’s explore the benefits of promoting fun at work and 24 simple ways to engage your employees by catering to their motivations.

Why fun at work matters

So what exactly is fun? And why should you promote fun at work? The best synonym for fun is enjoyment. And in the workplace, it is conducive of employee engagement. Indeed, most research on the benefits of fun at work and employee engagement quote similar outcomes. Overall, companies with high employee engagement are 21% more profitable than the competition. However,  according to research, only 15% of employees are engaged in the workplace. Companies that fail to engage their employees by fostering fun at work miss out on numerous benefits! 

Literature identifies the following:

  • Workplace motivation and productivity

    It may sound crazy, but when people like what they are doing, they do it better. Csikszentmihalyi, in his book “Flow, the Psychology of Optimal Experience”, describes enjoyment as “meeting expectations and exceeding them unexpectedly”. For him, the most enjoyable experiences, Flow experiences, makes us both more productive and happier. Fostering fun at work helps employees give their best on the workplace.

  • Higher job satisfaction and lower employee turn-over

    According to research, 81 percent of employees would consider leaving their job for the right offer. And the paycheck is not always a decisive factor. What matters is enjoying your work. Actually, 74% of younger employees would accept a pay cut to work their ideal job.

  • Boosted employee morale, and lower stress

    As Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, said: “Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress: Working hard for something we love is called passion.” Indeed, investing attention in a task against our will creates what Csikszentmihalyi calls “psychic entropy”: a state in which we can’t focus, we waste psychic energy and are inefficient (the opposite of Flow). This not only makes employees less productive, it also makes them stressed and unhappy. Providing the right work environment creates passionate employees.

  • Higher creativity and increased altruism

    Most conceptions of employee engagement generally revolve around extrinsic motivators, namely paychecks, raises and benefits. Focusing solely on extrinsic motivation has been proved to trigger the “overjustification effect”: a decrease in the intrinsic motivation to perform a task. This also decreases behaviours associated with intrinsic motivation, namely: creativity, altruism, interpersonal citizenship, and intellectual curiosity. Such behaviours are essential for fostering innovation, teamwork, customer service and many more. Fun at work helps revive these desirable behaviours, by fostering a balance between extrinsic and intrinsic motivations.


How to create fun at work

At this point, you probably don’t doubt the importance of fostering fun at work. However, you might still wonder how to make it a reality in your office.

First of all, you should know that there are plenty of types of fun. Michelle Lazzaro identifies 4 keys to fun: easy fun, hard fun, people fun, serious fun. Marc Leblanc identifies 8 kinds of fun: Sensation, Fantasy, Narrative, Challenge, Fellowship, Discovery, Expression, Submission.

At the Octalysis Group, we approach employee engagement and fun at work through the lense of the Octalysis Framework. It identifies 8 Core Drives, or 8 sources of human motivation. Each of these Core Drives can be leveraged to help your employees have fun at work and be more engaged.

We will focus on giving you actionable examples of how to create fun at work thanks to each Core Drive. For more in depth information about each individual Core Drive, you can click on the external links provided.


Core Drive 1: Epic Meaning and Calling

The first way to engage employees at work is through meaning. Epic Meaning and Calling is about making your employees feel like they are working for something greater than their own interest and salary.

fun at work quote Daniel Pink Epic Meaning and Calling

Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Rally your employees behind a strong mission statement. Your employees should be proud of the company they work for and what it does for the world.
  • Give employees feedback on the impact of their work. Employees should know the social impact of their project, their contribution to the company’s performance…
  • Help your employees contribute to the greater good. Some companies partner with NGOs to allow their employees to volunteer some of their working time (up to 20%) to a cause of their choosing. Others match their employees’ monetary donations to NGOs.


Core Drive 2: Development and accomplishment

Another key element of fun at work is the feeling of Development and Accomplishment.

fun at work quote Amabile and Kramer Core Drive 2 Development and Accomplishment Octalysis

Sadly, in most workplaces, the only accomplishment that exists is getting a raise. As you can imagine, this is nowhere near frequent enough to give a sense of progress to employees in their daily work life. Here are a few things you can do to improve your employees’ feeling of accomplishment:

  • Let employees track their performance. Forget annual performance reviews; your employees should always know where they stand regarding their professional objectives. Give them clear KPIs and tools to track them in real time.
  • Stray away from traditional rewards. Gabe Zuckerman proposes a classification of rewards in 4 categories: SAPS (Status, Access, Power, Stuff). Companies generally solely consider the last element, Stuff: raises, bonuses, coupons, the newest iPhone… Sadly, Stuff is the least effective sort of reward for motivating employees AND the costliest for companies. Instead, companies should focus on making employees work to obtain exclusive access and powers or status among their peers. Here is a small brainstorming: exclusive titles, access to premium features on company software, priority on work week planning, early booking access on company events…
  • Give high-fives. Encourage managers to recognise the accomplishments and efforts of their teammates on a daily basis.


Core Drive 3: Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback

A key element for fun at work and long-term employee engagement is to empower autonomy and creativity in the workplace.

fun at work quote Daniel Pink Core Drive 3 Empowerment of Creativity and Feedback Octalysis

Here are a few ways to leverage this Core Drive in the workplace:

  • Give autonomy to your employees. Your employees should have as much autonomy as their job permits it, be it on the tasks they tackle or the way they choose to tackle it. Try to give flexibility to your employees as to how they organise their work day. Finally, your employees should have autonomy over who they work with on a daily basis. This means you should never impose project team composition and you should involve a team in the recruitment process of their future team members.
  • Give your employees opportunities to be creative. More and more companies are implementing “FedEx days”: 24-hour events in which employees work on innovative projects. It is called FedEx Day, because employees have to deliver overnight, like the parcel delivery company.
  • Let your employees be teachers. Employees should be able to share their best practices with others. Give them opportunities to do so! For example, at The Octalysis Group, we are encouraged to write blog posts to share our knowledge to the world. We also have weekly learning meetings during which one of us (rotating weekly) teaches something valuable to all our colleagues.


For 15 more examples of how to foster fun at work through the 5 remaining Core Drives of the Octalysis Framework, check out the second part of this article.

You can also reach out to us directly for tailored expert advice on how to engage your employees and increase fun in your workplace thanks to Behavioural Science and Octalysis Gamification.

Contact us at for a FREE consultation.


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