Is your job stressful? If so, you’re not alone. Eighty percent of Americans report stress on the job because of heavy workloads, problems with colleagues, and difficulty juggling work with their personal lives. But what if work were more fun? Adding some fun to your workday could have a more positive impact on your life than you may think.
First of all, you may feel better: Workplace stress is linked with headaches, insomnia, depression, stomachaches, skin disorders, and chronic health conditions. Plus, you may perform better at your job. In fact, according to one study, people do better on tests after they watch a funny video. And a positive mood can improve productivity by 12 percent, according to another study.
Want to boost the fun at your job? Here are four ways to have more fun at work:
- Update your work area
- Create a game space
- Turn on some tunes
- Do a daily step challenge
Update your work area
You spend a third of your life in the office. A drab, cluttered space can bring you down and hamper your productivity. Spring for a funky desk lamp or stylish desk organizer, and add some color to your space. Not sure where to start? Let nature be your guide. Research suggests colors from nature make people feel better. For instance, restful green and calming blue improve efficiency and focus, and sunny yellow stimulates creativity.
Even a small houseplant can add big-time vitality to your work area. Houseplants remove toxins from the air and can help you feel calmer and happier. Just seeing a plant while you work may help boost your productivity by as much as 15 percent. If you have a brown thumb, try a spider or snake plant. Both thrive in indirect sunlight and don’t need much attention. No room for a plant? Even a picture of the outdoors can lower your heart rate and improve your day.
Create a game space
We all know the benefits of play for children, but did you know play is important for adults too? Grown-ups who are highly playful report less stress and better coping skills. And when adults play together at work, it enhances productivity, hastens learning, and boosts job satisfaction.
New Belgium Brewery has embraced the power of play with an office foosball table, onsite yoga, a volleyball court, table tennis, and a climbing wall. They give their employees cruiser bikes on their first anniversaries and trips to Belgium on their fifth anniversaries.
Your company is probably not as playful as New Belgium Brewery, but you may be able to persuade your manager to add a ping-pong table if you explain the benefits. Games invite playfulness, and they encourage people to take breaks. More than a quarter (27%) of employees don’t take breaks except for lunch, which is problematic for businesses: Breaks boost cognitive performance. In fact, when the Draugium Group, a Latvian collective, studied their employees’ break patterns, they discovered the most productive employees took the most breaks.
No room for a ping-pong table? Buy a net and a couple of paddles, and transform your conference table into one when you’re not using it for meetings.
Turn on some tunes
“Where words fail, music speaks,” Hans Christian Anderson said. Most of us have discovered the power of music to lift our emotions. Even sad music brings most people comfort, relief, and enjoyment. Listening to happy music for 12 minutes per day can improve overall happiness levels in a couple of weeks, according to a study.
But will listening to music distract you at work? It depends. In some cases, music may help you focus. For example, if you’re working in a distracting office environment, listening to music on your headphones can help drown out larger distractions. Or, if you’re plugging away at rote tasks, music may help you focus by keeping you alert.
But choose your tunes carefully if you listen while you work. Research conducted by Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Miami, suggests songs with a simple music structure and no lyrics may help you come up with ideas and perform tasks more quickly.
Do a daily step challenge
What can get office workers out of their office chairs, racing up staircases, and walking during meetings? A daily step challenge. Participants clip on pedometers (or use the pedometers on their smartphones or Fitbits) and aim to take 10,000 steps per day, which equates to about five miles. It’s fun to do a personal daily step challenge. But motivation is contagious, so consider inviting your colleagues to join you.
Walking is a great way to reduce stress, increase balance and endurance, and keep your brain healthy. Plus, just 20 minutes of exercise can boost your mood for up to 12 hours afterward. Increase the fun factor by forming teams and making it a friendly competition.
It pays to play
Author Shawn Achor has extensively researched the link between a positive mood and success, which he calls the “happiness advantage.” According to Achor, our brains are more creative, motivated, engaged, productive, and resilient at work when we’re in a positive mood. Sure enough, companies that embrace fun report fewer absences and higher productivity, according to a survey of 2,000 U.K. employers.
Consider this your excuse to adorn your drab cubicle, transform the conference table into a ping-pong table, jam out to happy music during your breaks, and invite your colleagues to do a daily step challenge. Fun is its own reward so you won’t be sorry you made time for it.