12 Ways Founders Can Best Emphasize the Importance of Play at Work

12 Ways Founders Can Best Emphasize the Importance of Play at Work

Entrepreneurs can often be so focused on making the company culture fun and lighthearted, that employees don’t understand the importance of productivity. That’s why we asked 12 founders from Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) how they make their expectations clear without damping the mood.

Here’s what YEC community members had to say:

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Play at Work

1. Create Different Spaces for Work, Focus and Fun

“Creating different spaces within your office demonstrates the various needs of your company. Having a comfortable work station is table stakes. Create another location for the team to have fun. A bar or ping pong table works, it just depends on your company culture. And finally, create quiet spaces for focus. These three spaces will make it clear that you value fun and productivity.” ~ Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

2. Schedule Team Bonding Outside of Work Time

“A fun and lighthearted company culture can improve productivity — the key is to foster that culture during times that don’t impact productivity. Create a shared space where everyone can eat lunch together, schedule happy hours, or organize a softball or bowling team. Figure out ways to get employees to bond outside of the conference room.” ~ Chuck CohnVarsity Tutors

3. Turn Productivity Into a Game

“When there’s a lot of work to be done I use games to keep motivated with my team. Asana, for example, uses flying unicorns on screen when we complete a task. In my office each writing task has a Post-it note and when five are done, we celebrate. Find a way to gamify accomplishing tasks or projects and then take the time to have fun. I’ll finish an article today just to get that last Post-it note!” ~ Kelly Azevedo, She’s Got Systems

4. Focus on Results, Not the Hours

“I’ve seen many entrepreneurs worry about the hours their employees work. They stress over employees coming in late or taking breaks. But ultimately, we all care about the results. By setting concrete goals and focusing on the results, you can provide employees with greater autonomy in how and when they do their work — which means more productive employees and more breaks for fun activities.” ~ Bhavin ParikhMagoosh Inc

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5. Set an Example

“I believe very strongly that at the core of a highly productive company culture is happiness. Employees who have fun and are happy work harder. They come in earlier and stay later, and are ready to overcome obstacles and confront challenges. Having fun things to do like ping pong and video games is great, but ultimately the company culture is set by founder(s). You need to set the example.” ~ Kristopher JonesLSEO.com

6. Schedule Time for Fun

“While my team does enjoy a fun environment daily, I also make sure to schedule in time for fun during the week. I think it’s beyond important to have a team that not only works well together, but knows each other and enjoys being together. That’s why I’ll always add team-building fun activities into our workweek, such as trivia. The hour or so spent on fun is well worth the investment.” ~ Elle KaplanLexION Capital

7. Focus on Teamwork

“When you allow your employees to get up from their desks, meet with their fellow co-workers, talk openly and discuss ideas, and work in teams as opposed to alone, the entire culture of your company gets a boost in happiness, fun, and most of all, productivity. Allowing your team to make groups of their own choice accentuates accountability, but also allows employees to enjoy themselves.” ~ Miles JenningsRecruiter.com

8. Start With Hiring

“It’s so important to the culture of any workplace that the people there love what they do. Whenever I can, I choose the person who is clearly fascinated by instead of just talented at what they do. This attitude brings a very different feeling to the office, and works to create a much more fun and engaged atmosphere. People who are happy when they are productive tend to be both, most of the time.” ~ Adam Steele, Loganix

9. Learn From Past Mistakes

“Early on, my co-founder (David Mainiero) and I would work ourselves to the bone: 120 hours a week, no vacations, no days off. Month after month. Levity and fun were in short supply. Our work culture was so brutal that David landed in the hospital. I show our new employees this picture so they understand the importance of maintaining balance.” ~ Joel ButterlyInGenius Prep

10. Find a Great Co-Working Space

“When looking for new office space, we wanted to find a location that would be conducive to work-life balance.  t makes it easier to pull late nights in the office when there are events in the space, networking opportunities with peers, mentoring hours and lunch included.” ~ Jennifer Mellon, Trustify

11. Look for Skill in Applications and for Culture During Interviews

“Skill sets can be an important filter when hiring talent, but it’s the interview that allows you to find people who best match the culture of your company. Once you have a block of applicants whose skills are above a certain threshold, you can flesh out whether their work/play balance matches the company’s vision. ” ~Justin CookeEmpire Flippers

12. Hold Team Building Events

“To run a successful company, you need to do both at the same time. We just did an all-company hackathon that was 48 hours long and an enormous amount of projects were completed at an incredibly high caliber of work. It was fun and light-hearted because people had autonomy over what they wanted to do and who they wanted to work with. Having events like this help to bring the company together.” ~ Chris SavageWistia

Gaming at Work Photo via Shutterstock

The Young Entrepreneur Council The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.

3 Reactions
  1. I think that fun is important. As much as businesses want to focus on outputs and results, the end is still the same. Your employees are still humans with different needs.

  2. These are great tips! Employees develop more positive attitude towards their job if they know that their workplace is not 100% all work. What’s better in increasing the output than having a motivated employee? Companies should make sure that fun is always within the workplace.

  3. Nailed it! Great article… 🙂