It’s official: Forced fun is over.

“Let people have the brand of fun that works for them in the context of their culture.”

That wisdom is from Nick Gianoulis, who’s known as “the Godfather of Fun” around his office. He realized years ago when he was planning an employee event that people are looking for ways to connect, celebrate and have fun throughout the work week — not just at huge after-hours company parties once or twice a year. He started The Fun Department to infuse a little fun into the work day.

On the #WorkTrends podcast, he shared how any leader can add more fun to work and keep employees engaged. You can listen to the episode below, or keep reading for a recap.


Create Shared Experiences

Here’s the big question: What’s the definition of “fun”? Gianoulis tasked an employee with answering that question. After months of research, the employee came back with bad news: There isn’t a universal definition of fun. Fun is different for every person. But, he found a common thread: People have fun when they share an experience together.

To create those shared experiences, Gianoulis and his team aim to figure out what’s fun for each individual, team and department. And they don’t force anything. “One of the really important elements of this shared experience is that it’s all-inclusive and nonthreatening,” he says. “Someone might just want to observe or cheer their team on. You let people participate at the level they’re comfortable with.”

Here’s an example: One of his clients found that a lot of the company’s employees like dance. Some people might love dancing, others might like watching “Dancing with the Stars.” At 3 p.m. every day, the company takes a dance break.

Follow the Laws of Fun

“‘The Laws of Fun’ sounds like an oxymoron,” Gianoulis says, “but there are some universal truths” to creating fun experiences for people at work.

First: Leaders have to buy in. “When leaders buy in, we’re successful 100 percent of the time. When leaders don’t buy in and we’re trying to force it from the bottom up, it’s only about 50 percent successful, and it might live in one area or department, but it won’t translate to the rest of the organization.”

Second: Remember the “Three Cs”: consistency, company time and compliance. Plan consistent activities. Gianoulis recommends a 15- to 30-minute activity once a month. Have fun on company time — not just after work hours. And make sure the experience is compliant with your overall company culture.

Think Small

Creating fun experiences at work doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. “We really promote doing things that are small, easy, organic and don’t require expert facilitation,” Gianoulis says.

Let’s say you want to have a company football game. Gianoulis suggests adapting football to a degree where everyone can play. He’d make it a 10- to 15-minute game, with props and supplies that cost less than $100.

“Employees don’t want these big, elaborate team-building events anymore,” he says. Instead, millennials are pushing for a more flexible culture that incorporates fun into everyday moments. And that’s good news for everyone, he says. “It doesn’t matter how old you are, everybody would like to have fun and flexibility at work.”

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