Can your office be fun, even in the middle of busy season or when you are on hour 35 of what was supposed to be a 20-hour engagement?
Every office environment—and the tone in the office—are different, of course, but to human resource pro Angie Herbers, the answer is an emphatic “yes.” Angie is founder of Angie Herbers, Inc., a human capital consulting and research firm that specializes in serving the financial advisory industry and other small businesses. Angie has an inside track to accounting based on several presentations she’s done with the AICPA, other accounting-related organizations and firms. Edge sat down with Angie to find out more about how to create “fun,” while also considering the impact fun has on getting the job done.
Edge: How does "fun" in the workplace help CPAs do their job better?
Angie Herbers: Fun can be defined in many different ways by many different people. For some, it might be going home early while others might think it’s fun to have a company lunch party. To someone else, it might be mean just hearing a joke.
Although it’s defined differently, the core is the same. What “fun” really means is just being able to be yourself, and then to have people who appreciate you—for you. Fun automatically happens, and when it does, people are more productive and want to work harder because working hard doesn’t take so much effort.
I suggest you just hire people you like, encourage everyone to be themselves, and fun will happen. As a result, you get a happy, productive, open, trusting working culture that always allows us to do our job better. There is nothing harder and less fun than working with someone you don’t like or who doesn’t like you.
Edge: In what ways does fun increase morale and create camaraderie?
Angie Herbers: It simply means you like being around the people you work with. When people “like” the people they work with, it’s fun and you are more likely to do that one extra thing for an overwhelmed employee/friend. Having friends always increases morale and camaraderie.
Edge: What are several low- or no-cost ways accounting organizations can have fun?
Angie Herbers: Everyone’s definition of fun is different and it’s not necessarily what you do during work hours that creates the fun. Whether you work in a large firm, small firm, or within business or industry, the key is to do a variety of things within the workplace and determine something together that is fun to do.
Here are several ways to have fun in the workplace, even though many of these activities are not done during working hours.
Encourage, and in some cases, pay for employees to take non-professional classes outside of work. I have one firm that pays for one non-professional class a year. One of the employees took a wine class. Another took a cooking class. They didn’t take the classes together, but what they learned they talked about and shared with other employees. As a result, the other employees started getting interested in cooking and wine. Then, several employees took the classes together. This example may seem overly simple, but what it did was actually facilitate fun outside of work, and as a result, made the work more enjoyable for everyone.
The company sponsoring an intramural team is a pretty good idea. While not everyone will participate and play on the baseball, golf, or basketball team, we find that a lot of employees will go out and watch the event or support those who are playing. By just getting employees together outside of work gives them a common bond inside the workplace and even a more 3D perspective of the individual. The end result is that everyone enjoys each other more.
Birthdays are a really good way to have fun within the workforce. I have one firm that takes turns making a cake for someone celebrating a birthday. Another firm always caters in lunch on an employee’s birthday.
Remember, the goal is not necessarily to have fun activities at work, but rather facilitate a way for people to get to know each other better. The goal is to get everyone to genuinely enjoy and appreciate the people they work with so work becomes “fun;” not just a job you show up and do.
Edge: How would a firm or company, or the people in the organization, know when the fun gets out of hand?
Angie Herbers: Simply, if fun gets out of hand, they shouldn’t be working for the company because they have not yet learned how to be professionals. We’ve never had an issue with fun getting out of hand. We have more issues with owners/mangers trying to take the fun out of workplace for fear it will get out of hand. That’s the biggest problem.
Edge: What role, if any, does social media have when we think of fun in the workplace?
Angie Herbers: It absolutely does! We encourage employees to follow and friend other employees on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Often, this helps them get that whole “perspective” of the person and helps them support and invite each other to outside personal events or other kinds of gatherings.
Remember, however, to never require employees to do any of these activities. If they don’t think that what you’re doing is fun, and are required to participate it, motivation and morale will decrease and they will think you are wasting their time. The goal is to just give them a way to get to know each other better, and if they want to do that, then great. If they don’t, then that’s OK, too.