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Have Fun at Work, Learn More

Topics: Data & Research

Here’s a New Year’s resolution that could boost your career and make work more pleasant: have more fun at work. According to recent research, it could help you learn more without ever having to attend another corporate seminar.

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The study, which was conducted by researchers at Penn State, Loyola University, and Ohio State University, surveyed 206 managers from a restaurant chain to determine the relationship between fun and learning at work. The managers were asked to rate fun activities and informal learning opportunities at their jobs, as well as their bosses’ support for fun at work. The findings, which were published in the Journal of Vocational Behavior, demonstrated that “[f]un activities were significantly related to overall informal learning.”

Lead author Michael Tews, an associate professor of hospitality management at Penn State, said that fun creates a better learning environment, making people more likely to try new things.

“You might not think there is this connection between informal learning and fun in the workplace,” said Tews, in a press release about the study. “It’s easier to make the connection between fun and retention, or fun and performance to the extent that it leads to creativity, but fun and learning doesn’t seem connected at the face of it. The gist of this argument, though, is that when you have a workplace that is more fun, it creates a safe environment for learning to occur.”

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Managers Should Know That Fun Is Important

Researchers found that fun at work could have a big impact — perhaps even more than manager support for learning itself.

“There’s a lot of talk in the literature about a manager’s support for learning, or creating a climate for learning, and how that makes a culture for learning where workers learn from one another,” said Tews. “What we’re showing is that this fun on the job actually matters as much as—or even more—than that support for learning.”

Tews also noted that having fun with coworkers “creates group cohesion,” as well as boosting workers’ optimism and resiliency. He does, however, urge managers to be selective about where and when to encourage fun at work. His earlier research has indicted that too much of a good thing, in this case, can impact productivity.

Tell Us What You Think

Are you all for having fun at work, or would you rather finish your work and go home, thanks? We want to hear from you. Tell us your thoughts in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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