This post is in partnership with Entrepreneur. The article below was originally published at entrepreneur.com.
By Jayson DeMers, Entrepreneur
Everyone wants to work somewhere fun. Ask anybody in the world what type of place they want their office to be, and only a tiny percentage will reply “someplace boring, where nobody enjoys themselves and everyone only pays attention to the work in front of them.” Yet, many workers find themselves in such an environment.
That’s because there’s a dissonance for business owners that’s difficult to resolve. Yes, “fun” workplaces get more attention and seem to have happier workers, but at the end of the day, you’re running a business, and you need to make sure your workers are productive if you have any chance of remaining profitable. Unfortunately, many business owners assume that the best way to encourage productivity is to discourage fun and enforce as many tight-laced structures as possible in the overall work culture.
This isn’t the only way to go about this, nor is it the best way. In fact, there are several strategies you can use to keep your productivity high while simultaneously injecting an atmosphere of fun into your office environment:
1. Organize challenges.
Friendly competition is always a good thing. You can do this with professional items—for example, you can split your marketing force into two teams and have them compete to see who can generate the most leads in a given period. But you can also do this with non-work-related games—for example, you can sponsor a ping pong tournament or something similar for your workers to blow off steam.
Either way, the competition will get your workers’ blood pumping, and will inspire them to work harder in all the other areas of their jobs. Plus, it can be a nice distraction from the rigors of a daily routine.
2. Encourage breaks.
Too many offices have either intentionally or unintentionally developed a culture that encourages workers to work as long and as hard as possible. The thought process is that putting in 12-hour days without breaks makes you more productive than someone putting in only eight or nine hours with breaks. In actuality, breaks are a great opportunity to decompress.
Breaks lead to fresher minds, greater problem-solving and focus and more creative thinking. Encourage your workers to take breaks whenever they see fit (within reason, of course). Set up a dedicated break room, and fill it with things that will take your workers’ minds off their work for a few minutes—complementary coffee, light snacks and even a game or two will work wonders.
3. Socialize offsite.
Workplaces where co-workers and collaborators get along as friends tend to succeed more than places where employees keeps their distance and function as wholly independent automatons. The best way to facilitate collaboration, team building and generally improved inter-office relationships is to hold opportunities for offsite socialization.
If you can, treat your team to an offsite lunch occasionally to just eat, talk and hang out together. Sponsor an offsite event that rewards your employees, or hold a backyard barbecue as an informal gathering.
Your employees don’t all have to be best friends with each other, but if you can get away from the office and see each other a little more personally, the team will work better together and have more fun doing it.
4. Celebrate achievements.
Most offices have some way of recognizing achievements, such as raises, bonuses, promotions or just nods of recognition. Few offices take the time or effort to celebrate achievements, even major ones.
Whenever a team or individual hits a major goal, or when the company reaches a major milestone, treat your team to a real celebration. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or take a lot of time, but hosting a mini gathering makes a big impact. It helps people reap the rewards of their hard work, spend time together and feel good about the progress your business has made.
5. Focus on productivity, not schedules.
Finally, one of the best ways to facilitate productivity is to directly encourage it. Rather than setting strict schedules, timetables and rules, give your employees more flexibility to do their work as they see fit, with one caveat: the work has to get done, no matter what. Accommodating work-from-home days, flex time, long breaks and strange working environment requests can actually enable your workers to function better and get more done—even if they’re working fewer regular hours.
Implement these work culture institutions in your own business, whether you’re just starting up or you’ve been around for a few years. You’ll notice a near-immediate difference in the attitudes and behaviors of your employees. They’ll feel more appreciated, more relaxed and best of all—they’ll be better equipped to do their jobs well and feel happier doing it.
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