Guest post from Dave
Are your employees having fun?
A business is a reflection of its leadership. How we choose to take charge shows up in company culture, for better or for worse. This is demonstrated in the research, but it also makes logical sense. Ruling with an iron fist inevitably leads to employees reporting low job satisfaction, high turnover, and poor performance. When leadership encourages employees to schedule routine fun throughout our days, weeks, months…everyone’s productivity and engagement levels significantly improve.
In my new book, The Power of Having Fun, I outline the importance of discovering your “Oasis” in each of the major sections of your life (Personal, Family, and Work). By Oasis, I’m simply referring to a moment of fun in your life—a refreshing respite necessary for rejuvenating your psyche as you crawl through the desert of modern work life. It’s a welcome vision of a sparkling blue pool, palm trees shading a soft cabana, and fruit juice and ceviche by the truckload. Best of all, these moments are not a mirage. They are real and soul-refreshing.
How Does the Oasis Idea Apply to the Workplace?
A Work Oasis is how you go about taking meaningful, bite-sized breaks during your normal work schedule. Whether you work in a multinational behemoth with tens of thousands of employees or you’re at a small start-up, the Work Oasis is vital to you and your team’s productivity. Most often, these are micro-Oases (the plural of “oasis,” seriously!) that occur a few times in each workday. Occasionally you or your company may want to consider also a “next-level” hiatus throughout the day-to-day hustle.
While the employee is ultimately responsible for taking breaks, the leadership of the company and mid-level managers can do a lot to make these happen. They can make employees feel confident and empowered to take a mini-oasis. Leading by example, talking about the shift to more meaningful breaks, and scheduling longer monthly breaks will set the wheels in motion.
Time is Money
Instituting daily, weekly, and monthly breaks is an investment with a small upfront cost. Some C-level execs may intuitively see the value of adopting a culture that incorporates more fun. Some may need a little convincing. Let me help you out.
Let’s consider what you might stand to lose. Let’s imagine that your best sales rep, an earning machine that used to burn the midnight oil for you begins the rapid descent toward total burnout. They become unresponsive. They start calling in sick. Next thing you know they are fielding offers from fun-loving competitors and, just like that, they are gone.
What is the cost of that shakeup? Thousands of dollars? Tens of thousands? Those hiring, firing, transition, and retraining costs, not to mention possible headhunter fees, will add up faster than a math professor counting cards in Vegas.
Next, consider how you might benefit from a 2 percent increase in productivity due to implementing the Oasis principle. Based on field experience, I would estimate that the boost from taking small, meaningful breaks is closer to 5 to 15 percent. But 2 percent is a nice, safe, conservative estimate. This would yield one extra workweek of gained productivity from every employee, every single year. What’s the ROI for that kind of a boost?
Also weigh the impact of new referrals from both potential customers and employees. Your team is the greatest group of potential advocates—or detractors—your company can have. Imagine a plethora of people who continually rave about your company to others because you’ve made it so simple for them to enjoy a workday! That’s the kind of marketing goodwill no PR company can buy for you.
Getting Into the Rhythm
Most of us are familiar with circadian rhythm or “body clock”. Similarly, in a workplace context, you have an optimal cycle for how long you can work until you need to take a break. A sleep researcher, Nathan Kleitman, gets credit for discovering the “basic rest-activity cycle”—also called the ultradian rhythm.
Ultradian rhythms are shorter, recurrent patterns in our circadian day. Each person has an optimal cycle for how long they can work before needing a break—or a Work Oasis.
Just as each person has unique nightly sleep needs, a person’s Work Oasis needs to
vary from around 90 to 120 minutes per ultradian cycle.
Translation: if you’re a person that needs a break every 90 minutes, failing to take a break after that period of time will result in a diminishing return. However, by taking and enjoying your oasis, your body will rest its internal clock, recharge its internal battery, and return to optimal levels of performance.
Amazing, right? Once you discover your ultradian rhythm, you can then build a schedule that supports it. The fastest way to find your unique workday ultradian rhythm is through—you guessed it—experimentation. Encourage your employees to experiment and determine their rhythm too. This will help get the ball rolling on having more fun in the workplace.
Time to Act
If you now see the value in adding more fun to your office environment, create an action plan. If you’re not the one calling the shots (yet), discuss this article with leadership and work together to see the change come to fruition.
Start by scheduling a meeting with your team to discuss the following questions:
1. What are some ways to facilitate our employees taking meaningful, self-planned breaks daily or multiple times per day? (Think of these as occurring every 90 minutes or so, and lasting about 10-20 minutes.)
2. What about on a weekly basis? (Think of these as lasting one to three hours.)
3.What might we do on a monthly basis? (Think of these as lasting a half-day to one day.)
4. What can we do annually?
Wherever you sit on the org chart of your company, you have the ability to affect productive change far more than you realize. On more than one occasion, I’ve seen companies that have changed for the better simply because one employee had the courage to speak up and share something that they learned. That gentle push of the domino started a chain reaction all the way to the top. Even if you don’t influence the whole company, you can certainly influence your coworkers and team and have a little fun for yourself every day.
It all begins with making the Work Oasis an essential part of your productivity strategy.
Dave Crenshaw is the master of building productive leaders. He has appeared in Time
magazine, USA Today, FastCompany, and the BBC News. His courses on LinkedIn Learning have received millions of views. He has written three books and counting, including
The Myth of Multitasking which was published in six languages and is a time management bestseller. His fourth book, The Power of Having Fun, is due for release in September 2017. As an author, speaker, and online instructor, Dave has transformed hundreds of thousands of businesses leaders worldwide.