Someone recently commented that they felt it was really important to have fun at work. Instinctively, I smiled, because I also place high value on fun and humor. But then, we paused and had a great conversation. Because we wondered, what does “fun at work” really mean?

It has to be more than the annual office party. It’s not about how many times a day I burst out laughing (though the more, the better!) As we unpacked this concept, we defined five elements that make a workplace fun:

  • 💪 People feel empowered to do work that is inspiring and rewarding. A few parts to this: we must feel empowered to do the work that we’re here to do. The work itself should be something that motivates us because it’s inspiring – interesting, mind-opening, meaningful. And we should feel rewarded in doing it – the work gives us a sense of gratification.
  • 🎯 Everyone understands what success looks like. It’s not fun to do something you think is great, but then find out you’re off the mark. Equally, it’s not very fun to plug away at a task without understanding the why behind it.
  • 👏 Great work is recognized. It’s fun to be part of a workplace culture that holds up, recognizes and celebrates great work. Those moments don’t need to be in front of hundreds or come in the form of shiny plaques. A thoughtful note or a pause in the day to say “thank you” can be deeply appreciated.
  • 🧩 Mistakes are viewed as learning experiences. No one gets shouts at, feels condemned, or humiliated because they’ve made a mistake. Rather, they’re now seen as better equipped for the future, because they’ve added another puzzle piece to the bigger picture and they’re better for it.
  • 💡Knowledge and expertise trump hierarchy and bureaucracy. Feeling unleashed to do something because you are trusted as an expert is fun, but being weighed down by paperwork and process isn’t. And, we generally respect those above us, because we believe they have experience and wisdom to share. But when hierarchy is valued over knowledge, fun can fall to the wayside and the ideas may stop coming.

So, are you having fun at work?