News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Business

October 21, 2012

BUSINESS CENTS: Feel free to incorporate goofing off into company culture

Many people tend to “goof off” at work, even if it is just a little bit. Why do people do it when they know it is against policy? Usually goofing off takes place because people get bored and need to change up their work environment, even if for a few minutes.

As a manager, leader or owner should you really be that upset?

For the most part, as long as your company is trending and meeting goals, then feel free to incorporate that goofing off into your company culture a bit. In addition, by actually encouraging it, you can create an environment that fosters innovation. Listed below are a few steps to help develop a culture to foster company innovation.

1. Experimentation. Experimentation permits employees to try new and different things. Set aside a time either during the day or during the week in which employees are permitted to pursue their own self interests.

Using this technique will encourage employees to develop new methods, processes or products that are derived from their “down time.”

For example, Google permits employees to have 1/5 of their time to foster their innovation. From that time, Gmail was developed.

2. F-U-N! Everyone wants to have fun where they work. As employees and business owners, individuals spend most of their lives at work. It is critical that people enjoy where they work. Feel free to create activities that bring a fun and light element into the work environment. By doing this a couple of things will take place: workers will renew their commitment to the employer and productivity will increase.

3. Brain dead. Employees are often charged with the same set of responsibilities day in and day out. This creates an environment that is a plateau and monotonous. Innovation, fun and experimentation allow employees to take their mind off the current set of responsibilities for a period of time. By giving them a break, it permits their brain to get “charged” back up and ready for action. Their energy, drive and motivation will also increase and hence increase productivity.

4. Encouragement. Be sure to encourage your employees to think outside of the box. YouTube has extraordinary video on innovation and having fun in the workspace while remaining productive. For example, Pikes Place Market in Seattle, Wash., has a great time throwing and catching fish to increase employee engagement with customers (www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBisHWbtdjk).

In summary, to increase company innovation try lightening up your work environment for employees to have more fun at work, which ultimately permits them to think outside of the box and increase motivation and productivity.

Heather (Penney) Strohm is the regional director for Indiana State University’s Indiana Small Business Development Center.

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