Fun at Work Might Help Employee Engagement, But it Will Get in the Way of Productivity

lululemon fun at work Getting a little fun into the workplace is a great way to boost employee engagement, retention and overall morale. But, it comes at a price. A new study found that fun in the workplace can hinder productivity, at least within the hospitality industry.

"In the hospitality industry, employee turnover is notoriously high because restaurant jobs are highly substitutable -- if you don't like your job at Chili's you can go to TGI Friday's down the street," said Michael J. Tews, assistant professor of hospitality management at Penn State. "High employee turnover is consistently quoted as being one of the problems that keeps managers up at night because if you're involved with recruiting and training constantly, then you can't focus on effectively managing your existing staff and providing a high-quality service experience."

Researchers surveyed 195 restaurant servers who worked at a casual-themed restaurant. They asked questions about social events and whether managers supported fun in the workplace. They found that when managers support fun, it lowers employee turnover -- this is especially true for younger employees. The survey also found that fun activities (social events) increased sales performance, which is especially true for older employees. Lastly, managers who support fun in the workplace lower sales performance regardless of age.

"The question becomes, is the productivity loss associated with manager support for fun worth the significant reduction in employee turnover?" Tews said. "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. In this scenario, you also see the greatest reduction in employee turnover."

Tews and his team of researchers will also be looking into what makes a work activity fun and why some enjoy partaking while others do not