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Wilmington’s fun dept. wants you to have fun at work today (and every day)

On National Fun at Work Day, Nick Gianoulis and Christopher Bruce offer advice on how to keep the workplace engaging all year round.

Nick Gianoulis and Christopher Bruce of fun dept. (Screenshot)

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It’s National Fun at Work Day, when workplaces — whether in person, remote or hybrid — are encouraged to take the last Friday in January and make it more fun.

The concept is right up the alley of Wilmington’s fun dept., except for one thing: That team believes every work day should have fun incorporated into it, not just a once-a-year novelty holiday.

Cofounded in 2005 by Nick Gianoulis, fun dept. is a training and consulting firm specializing in employee engagement — and one important part of that is creating a workplace that is consistently productive and, well, fun.

Gianoulis and collaborative partner Christopher Bruce, founder of media production company King Creative, have worked together through multiple shifts in office trends, no more impactful than the COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work. Their latest product, Connect 4Q, is a quarterly interactive subscription show featuring games, guests and challenges specifically designed to bring together remote and hybrid teams.

“A lot of companies have satellite locations where they might have an office in Minneapolis and then one down in Raleigh,” Bruce said. “You’re going to struggle getting those people together, no matter what. So everyone being able to come into a virtual space allows for teams to really connect in a way that’s meaningful.”

Colleagues having a Team Building

Fun is good for a company’s bottom line. (Photo by Pexels user Yan Krujau via a Creative Commons license)

While some workplaces participating in National Fun at Work Day may be planning a day of festivities that wouldn’t be productive on an everyday basis, Gianoulis sees the “holiday” as a welcome reminder that fun and work can be compatible, even though making a big deal about workplace fun isn’t fun dept.’s model.

“Especially today, in a lot of cases, it’s completely remote, where people have worked for a company for two years and they’ve never physically been there,” Gianoulis said. “There’s a kind of crisis there with people not connecting and not feeling attached to a company, culture, their colleagues or anything. So this is really a reminder that we should take time and have fun at work.

“What we promote is something a little bit different — most people think it’s got to be a two- or three- or four-hour big production. That’s not our model. We’re talking about brief, easy things that you can do in the workplace that will generate a similar result, especially if you do them consistently.”

It only takes a couple minutes at a time to inject some fun into your workday, and most everyday fun breaks take little to no planning. A few quick ideas include:

  • A paper football game
  • A trivia challenge (you can use a Zoom add-on for remote/hybrid teams)
  • A thumb wrestling tournament (no props or prep needed)

“The short, consistent, ongoing model works really well,” Bruce said. “If a company commits to that, they see the biggest result of the long term, because a lot of times when they do the one offs, it’s great in the moment, but it just sort of fades and it’s hard to sustain.”

These methods are good for employee morale, which ties directly to lower turnover and better productivity. The company has lasted because it helps companies’ bottom lines.

“We want to encourage others to use this as a moment to really take that step back and have some fun,” Bruce said. “The work is still going to be there. And in fact, we would argue that if you do have a little bit of fun, for 10 to 15 minutes, you’re going to be back even more productive than you would if you didn’t, so you’ll get more done by taking a break and having some fun. And that’s a win for everyone.”

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