Do You Have Fun at Work?


A friend told me recently he overheard a co-worker saying, “Just because we work together doesn’t mean I have to like you.” Really? How can we be pulling together, working for the same vision, and attempting to achieve the same goals if we are only tolerating one another’s presence? And do we think our customers or church members are automatons and won’t pick up on the tension?

When you work at a church, it isn’t just a job. It’s not just about fulfilling a responsibility. It is also about doing life together. It is about being the church while you are leading the church. It is about having fun, working through conflict, accomplishing ministry, and yes, being highly effective in your job.

When you are a Christian leader working in business, it also isn’t just about a job. Your life is the only Jesus some people will ever see. It’s important that you model God’s love for those around you, whether they recognize it as such or not. You are in a unique position to help people find meaning in their work, and creating opportunities for fun can do just that.

In every organization where I've hired staff, I've valued chemistry and affinity as highly as—if not higher than—education, skills, experience, and passion. And that is why we intentionally planned time to have fun. In the old days, when our staff was much smaller, we would all jump in our vehicles and go to a movie, or out to eat, or miniature golfing. As the staff size increased, much of that happened in a decentralized fashion.

For example, when I led a church, our communications team headed to a nearby town for an IMAX movie, our children’s team experienced a high ropes course together, and the arts staff gathered for a family pool party and cookout.

The affinity doesn’t grow on its own. It must be nurtured with intentionality. It is worth an investment of time and money on “fun” to build a culture where your staff is energized and committed to one another for the long term.

To make this a reality, several things have to be true:

  • Priority. Although fun doesn’t require much money, you have to make fun a priority in your budget. It won’t just happen.
  • Accessibility. This can’t be something that just senior leadership does. If so, it’s an executive perk rather than a strategic part of shaping culture.
  • Modeling. At the same time, you have to demonstrate fun. One of my leaders thanked me for valuing fun and downtime during our senior team gatherings because it gave her permission and encouragement to do the same in her department.
  • Inclusiveness. Even with a large staff, do a couple of things each year with the entire team. My wife and I always hosted a summer picnic, and at Christmas, our team put on a formal dinner for everyone and their spouses. My team at Vanderbloemen is planning an outing at an Astros game this summer.
  • Just do it. You can’t wait for the work to get done to experience fun. For some of your staff, you’ll need to tell them this is “required fun.” Otherwise, they will never participate either because (a) they don’t have a felt need for fun, or (b) they think they have too much to do.

Having fun with your team may cost money, but I believe the little bit of money you invest in creating a great culture now will save you a hundredfold later.

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace