The practical side of being a big family is only part of the equation. In the light of how much time we spend at work, it is a great pity if we do not manage to have fun. This is a very interesting area in great company philosophy. It is all too easy to assume a definition of fun, when in fact it is something that changes from person to person and from company to company. And it perfectly demonstrates that a company is only great if the people working there think it is. You and I looking from the outside can make a guess at it, but will never really know unless we ask those involved. Companies are made up of people who are all totally different, so each organisation must look for its personal signature.
From the fun perspective, it is a matter of understanding what colleagues enjoy - so what better way than to involve them in creating the enjoyable interludes. At St Luke's each person receives the annual ‘Make yourself more interesting' fund - £150 per person to use in an interesting way. Activities range from Indian head massage, kick boxing and philosophy, to swimming with dolphins, providing fascinating reports back to the company. Each newcomer is also given £100 when he or she joins, to buy a present for the agency. After working there a while, a group of new starters clubbed together to buy patio heaters for the deck outside the restaurant doors. Now they can have barbecues more frequently.
Asda have a monthly meeting at Asda House in Leeds that gives the latest company information in a fun way, generally accompanied by some interesting celebrity appearance - like having Atomic Kitten to sing to them. Of course, fun does not have to take huge budgets - at Honda it is getting the chance to have a go on the bikes and the little racing cars built with lawnmover engines; at Timpson it is all getting together over a pint funded by James Timpson; and at Wragge it can be sleeping out overnight to raise money for the homeless. It is a matter of finding out what people want and what the company can afford in terms of time and money, and then getting on with it.
In so many companies, work is what is important and fun is something you have when you leave. But that really is missing the point. Think of the last time you had a good time. Sharing a laugh or a sense of satisfaction binds people together. Those times you laughed till you cried over a good joke, or shared a good natter over a glass of wine, build connections and can be the stuff of company stories - this is one way culture is built.
‘Doesn't this make it difficult for people to concentrate on the work at hand? Too much fun can be a distraction and destroy a working day.'
You need to keep a balance. It does not have to be a funfair, just an environment in which people can have a laugh together and in which success is celebrated. Taking a break can be just the thing to raise a flagging spirit, where continuing against the odds can lead to mistakes.
Don't save fun for Christmas - make sure it has a regular presence in your team. Sharing fun together will improve effectiveness by building relationships and strengthening belonging.
Make an assessment of fun in the workplace. Is there a balance of hard work and downtime?
In your team, look for successes to celebrate - a small gift of chocolates or doughnuts all round is a great way to validate a piece of work done well, while providing a break and a bit of fun.
Make sure that you know what team members enjoy (see the Timpson test list in Chapter 6) - for instance, if someone loves their garden, a few bedding plants will go down much better than a standard box of chocolates, and show that you thought about them specifically.
Get the team together over a coffee and talk with them about ways to have fun. You do not have to have all the answers, just the willingness to find out and allow the time.