Ten Ways to Inject Fun Into the Workplace


When I first heard that there was a book called “Work Like Your Dog,” I had some unsavory visions of excusing myself from an important meeting to drink out of the toilet bowl, taking a moment out of a client lunch to rub against their leg, or simply getting caught cleaning myself when my assistant walked in. It turns out, Matt Weinstein and Luke Barber had something completely different in mind, and it concerns the notion that dogs are actually really energetic and good at play. My ongoing vision for my radio show “Opportunity Knocks” has been to combine business with a sense of humor, two things that are often mutually exclusive in our society.


According to a William M. Mercer survey, only 29 percent of employers nationwide encourage humor as part of their company culture, and only eight percent have a policy of using fun to reduce employee stress. Yet, research at California State University Long Beach showed that people who have fun at work are more creative, more productive, work better with others and call in sick less often. Indeed, we were privileged to have as our guest on the show recently Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko’s, who encouraged a whole lot of wild stuff in the workplace to make his staff happier. Check out his book, “Copy This!” for the juicy details.

So what’s everybody waiting for? Those who are ready to shake things up can take advantage of the Tom Stern, work-life balance, ten-point plan for making the job you go to every day a zanier, more exciting place to be.

  1. Casual Friday has been done to death. Start instituting casual dress on any day of the week you like, but only from either nine to noon or one to five. Having people change into or out of a set of clothes in the middle of the day will be stimulating, and the sense of anticipation about what “casual dress” means to some of the bozos you work with will keep everyone on their toes.
  2. Select an area of the office in front of which will be placed a piece of gymnastic equipment. In order to get to, say, Human Resources, you have to vault over a horse. Keeps everyone in shape, and if you set up a video camera, your office could amass quite a “blooper reel.”
  3. Bring a karaoke machine to the office and stage “American Idol” contests at lunch break. NOTE: For maximum fantasy element (not to mention the chance to vent), make the bosses the contestants and the employees the judges.
  4. As an incentive to timeliness, whoever gets to work before upper management gets to park in their reserved space.
  5. Inter-office e-mails will all now feature the subject heading “FEEL FREE TO IGNORE THIS USELESS DRIVEL.”
  6. Make a point to be more specific when exchanging pleasantries with your co-workers. For example, skip the overused “how was your weekend?” and replace it with “did you gamble away your first born again?” or “say, did your boyfriend ever find out what you did?”
  7. In a variation of a college drinking game, every time anyone calls Wednesday “hump day” they get pummeled with the candy from the jar on the receptionist’s desk.
  8. Once a month, the entire office takes a long lunch and goes out to a movie matinee. (This suggestion on hold until Hollywood actually makes some good movies again.)
  9. Everyone swears off coffee for one day. (NOTE: only use this idea if things are getting so bad at your workplace that they can only be remedied with a sudden outbreak of irrational violence.)
  10. One time every day, whoever answers the phone gets to do so by going “thank you for calling Bunch of Dysfunctional Losers, how may I direct your call?”

My hope is that this list of fun-inducers will get your mind going, too. Let’s hope that the next time the William A. Mercer company surveys us, we’ll jack up that percentage of humor in the workplace to well over half this dang country. We can dream, can’t we?


  1. There is no limit to the ways in which you can inject some fun into the workplace. However, please note that nobody wants or needs to see you in a thong ever again.
  2. Think twice the next time you use the phrase “work like a dog.” Use “work like an ox” instead…now there’s a creature that’s about as much fun as a rubber crutch.
  3. You’ve just gone through my ten-point plan, and still you wanted Top Three Takeaways. Clearly, you appetite for lists is insatiable.

Tom Stern is the founder of Stern Executive Search and the creator of CEO Dad, the syndicated comic strip about executive dysfuntion.