Are you having fun?
Has work become a bit more of a drag for you recently? Are you feeling a loss of purpose and engagement? I’ve been hearing about this a lot from people recently – both coaching clients and in groups. You will be familiar with the context. Many of us are working from home and juggling multiple priorities like never before. In some parts of the world (Singapore) we are unable to travel and so are at home day in day out. Holidays are ‘staycations’ and getting variety seems hard. We also have masks on and it is so hard to see people smiling behind a mask. 2020 is a serious year! At the beginning of Covid, when everyone was working from home, teams put extra effort into having informal time together, but even that seems to be waning. The energy needed to organise virtual drinks seems so much more than a quick ‘who wants to go for lunch?’ when we are in the office. We have become very task focused and seem to be losing the fun. I think this is a big problem. I am sure there is research (I’d love to hear about it) that shows that having fun is good for productivity. We know it intuitively right? I even heard a senior leader recently justify keeping a person in the team because that team member made everyone laugh. This was worth paying for. On our coaching programme we teach ‘Transactional Analysis’. It is a model exploring how we ‘transact’ with ourselves and others. Developed by Eric Berne, he describes ego states, or states of mind. These are Parent, Adult and Child. We all function from these states at different times. Part of the model talks about our ‘Free Child’. Words which describe this state are ‘open, spontaneous, bold, intuitive, creative, playful, joyful, vulnerable.’ These words are powerful. They embody energy and enjoyment. In teams they are words that suggest innovation and collaboration. For us to function well as humans, we need to spend time in our Free Child state. I think at the moment we are spending too much time in Adult or Parent and not enough time in our free child. Whilst writing this I am thinking of a leader I know in Singapore (I won’t name her for fear of embarrassment). Whenever I interact with her or any of her team there is laughter, fun. This team wins awards for their successful delivery – and they also have a lot of fun. Perhaps the fun is supporting their innovation and wide recognition as delivery high quality. It’s time for us to reignite our free child. Let’s do this for both for ourselves and our teams.
What can we do?We can look for ways to be open, spontaneous, bold, intuitive, creative, playful, joyful and vulnerable. For me, since I had this ‘aha moment’ I’ve been much more aware of this for myself. I can take myself very seriously and programme every minute of my time away from work with self help and self improvement activities. On Sunday I watched a terrible romantic comedy and did the ironing. This might not sound like your idea of fun, but just giving myself permission to watch something I enjoyed was refreshing. Reading a novel, cooking something fun or taking time to mess around with the kids. In teams we can set challenges. One team I know have had a baking competition using cake mix. At the moment they can’t share the cake – but they can get family to give it marks out of 10. We can do virtual karaoke (as long as no-one in my team gets any ideas about this!). We can read poems, go for virtual walks together. We can brainstorm crazy solutions to an existing problem. And what else? How do you have fun at work and in your team? Let’s share and give each other ideas.
About the Author
Jean Balfour is Managing Director of Bailey Balfour and Programme Director of our ICF Accredited Coach Training Programmes (ACTP). Jean is passionate about helping people to have good conversations both at work and at home. She believes that coaching is a life skill and that you never regret learning to coach.