Following the Great Resignation, millennials and boomers alike are resisting the return to the office and leaving their jobs like never before.
Those who stay may be feeling lost, distracted, or simply demotivated. For these employees, the idea of ‘quiet quitting’ may be highly tempting, a growing trend in people’s relationship with work.
Having fun at work:
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The idea of both working hard and being happy at work may seem unattainable to most, but on a recent business trip to New York, I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see The Music Man on Broadway.
You might be wondering what the connection is here, but watching Hugh Jackman, an iconic big screen personality, doing his thing on stage provided me with a new perspective.
I never expected that that evening would change my views on the nature of work and the connection between having fun at work, impact, and productivity.
His performance was thoroughly entertaining, and I’d recommend The Music Man without reservation. But being completely honest, Jackman wasn’t the best dancer or singer on the stage. His vocal range was limited, he missed cues and even once appeared to forget a line.
But that’s not what stuck with me that evening. Beneath the perspiration, Jackman was smiling through the entire performance, and his energy seemed boundless.
What took me by surprise is how much fun he was having and led me to ask myself: what if I had invested more energy in trying to have more fun at work?
As a former CEO and long-time executive, I’ve always worked hard and tried to lead by example: arriving early, leaving late, and stretching myself to the breaking point.
Fun times were reserved for after hours and weekends. But what if I’d invested some of that energy in trying to have more fun? Would I have been more effective as a result? Having fun seems to be working for the Wolverine.
It hit me like a lightning bolt. Hugh Jackman doesn’t need to work – he loves to work. And the fun he was having inspired everyone else on the stage to be even better.
But is it that simple? Could you become a better leader by having fun at work?
Of the 15,000 titles currently on Amazon about leadership, none espouse the virtue of work resembling play time.
I was intrigued, and began reading more about happiness, and having fun at work, until I hit upon perhaps one of the most foundational works on the topic: Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, written in 1990.
The book describes a mental state in which people become fully immersed and absorbed in an activity to the point they lose awareness of time, people, and distractions – even hunger and thirst.
The flow state is a wonderful feeling where your work and effort can become truly fun and enjoyable.
Csikszentmihalyi goes further to say that flow states are achieved under a specific set of conditions. Most importantly, the task must be the right level of challenging. Too difficult a task becomes frustrating, but too easy and people quickly become bored. It needs to be just right and just challenging enough, while also ensuring regular and immediate feedback in an environment that is free from distraction.
Ask yourself, are you having fun at work? If you are unsure, I’d challenge you to ponder on the following questions:
- Is the job you are doing too challenging, too easy, or just challenging enough?
- Do you know the objective? Are you getting regular and immediate feedback?
- And lastly, is your environment conducive to working for meaningful periods without distraction?
Hugh Jackman would answer ‘yes’ to those three questions and, from now on, so will I.
During a period where many people are rethinking their relationship with work, it’s time we all start finding ways to achieve flow states. If we collectively make this a priority, not only will we be happier at work, chances are we’ll also be more successful.
John DiLullo is chief revenue officer at Forcepoint