Fun. This was the most prominent point of discussion at our most recent culture meeting. Our culture – mission, vision, and core values – is our key to success, so we meet regularly to ensure it’s still relevant and we’re living it. This particular meeting was a town hall style forum for our managers to present important talking points. “Is VIA a fun place to work?” was the question that sparked a half-day discussion. Honestly, the traditionalist in me was a bit irked that we were spending so much time and focus talking about fun. I wanted to change the subject to important topics such as hard work, execution, or results. But, wait! This was a meeting to examine and affirm our culture, and our mission is a critical element of our culture.
Do what we love, have fun doing it, strive to be the best, and benefit others in the process?
That’s our mission at VIA. Right out of the gates we call out fun. The very intentional inclusion of the phrase “have fun” is not a casual tip of the cap to good times, it’s not a recruiting tool to attract the free-spirited, and it’s not an empty statement. We insist our team members live our mission, therefore, we insist that they have fun. My silent hypocrisy was glaring and convicting. Not only was it appropriate for us to have this debate, it was mission critical. I reengaged in the discussion with a sincere question: “How does fun fit into a culture that also insists on results?” After all, VIA isn’t an after-school program. This is a business. We have clients, vendors, and stakeholders all counting on our success. Plus, ours is not a self-serving effort – we’re here to benefit others. So, why were we so intentional to call out fun in our mission and how does it fit into our results-oriented culture? It was necessary to revisit the topic because I obviously needed a refresher myself.
First, we believe passion for our work and an enjoyable work environment are accelerators to results. Striving to be the best requires a daily commitment – a constant renewing of the mind. Work is time-consuming and can be incredibly stressful. Plus, continuous improvement is not comfortable. If you’re starting from a position of disinterest and discontent, you’re hosed. In the same way that fun can accelerate results, dissatisfaction can accelerate mediocrity. We have several core values, like accountability, that help us focus on our pursuit of excellence. Still, we believe the desire to do great work, hit goals, and deliver results is born from an enjoyment and satisfaction associated with our work.
Second, we believe attitude, or state, is fundamental to the enjoyment of our work. I don’t enjoy every aspect of my job. For instance, I despise commercial air travel. Whether I accept it as a necessary part of my job or allow it to sour my experience is ultimately my choice. When we say it’s our mission to have fun, we’re speaking to our responsibility as team members to contribute positively to our work environment. JFK famously said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Yes, we’re each on a mission to have fun because we believe it’s our individual contributions that will make VIA an enjoyable place to work.
And, in case you think this is just a matter of opinion, there’s actually a decade of research to back it up. The Great Place to Work Institute (the group that produces Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list) found that “great” companies consistently earn significantly higher marks for “fun.” So, employees at the best companies are also enjoying themselves the most. And why should managers and shareholders and business leaders care if their employees are having fun? Because the ripple effect of fun leads to greater performance, retention and profitability. And, when leaders create a fun workplace, there is a significant increase in the level of employee trust, creativity and communication – leading to lower turnover, higher morale and a stronger bottom line. Most of us spend more time at work than anywhere else. Why not enjoy it?