How much is too much fun on the job? Keeping employee morale up helps people stay productive, but there comes a point when having fun at work gets in the way of, you know, actually doing work. A new study from the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly attempts to quantify that fine line, comparing employees’ perceptions of fun in their workplace with turnover rates and sales data.
The survey asked 195 restaurant servers at an unnamed “casual-theme restaurant chain” about having fun at work, including whether the employees thought their managers tried to make the workplace fun or whether they cared about people having fun on the job. It also asked about “fun activities,” which included holiday parties, team building, and birthday celebrations.
Unsurprisingly, people who feel like they have fun at work seem to be less likely to leave their job. Fun-loving managers had lower turnover rates, especially for younger employees. “For younger employees, a manager allowing them to have fun on the job is important because fun leads to the development of friendships,” as author Michael Tews puts it. Yet having a manager who fosters rampant fun times outside of organized activities lowered employees’ sales performances.
The study’s authors believe the loss of productivity associated with employees having a roaring good time might be offset by the fact that the restaurant can be more productive when it doesn’t have a staff turnover every few weeks. “We think if you have both manager support for fun and fun activities, the dip you see in productivity as a result of manager support for fun may be canceled out by the increase in productivity you see as a result of fun activities,” Tews says. Whether these findings apply neatly to employees working in an office, rather than a high-turnover chain restaurant, will have to be a topic for another study.