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Wacky workplaces work wonders

Employees encouraged to get zany to increase productivity


Office antics are often portrayed in the movies as the actions of out-of-control employees who take advantage of the boss's absence and engage in crazy activities such as office chair races, stacking water cooler cups or stapler shooting competitions.

Turns out, according to David Thomas, Ph.D., the director of academic technology at the University of Colorado-Denver, those activities shouldn't be reserved for when the boss is away. In fact, such zany activities should actually be implemented by the boss, in an effort to create a more effective workforce, foster workplace harmony and ultimately increase productivity and profits.

“I'm all about office Olympics,” said Thomas, in a workshop he presented at the CU South Denver campus in Lone Tree on April 27. “I think there should be more of that.”

Attendees of Thomas' “Return on Investment of FUN, aka Wacky Workplace” lecture learned why having fun in the workplace is important, and came up with ideas to make their own offices more fun.

Andrew Mead, who works in the technical department for the City of Colorado Springs, said he was sent by his office specifically to learn more fun techniques to employ at work.

“I'm here on official business,” said Mead. “Fun is in our mission statement.”

Mead said their office is going on the fourth years of their uniquely created office holiday that combines four holidays, and non-holidays, that occur in May.

“We call it Cinco de Star Wars Lei May Day,” said Mead. “We'll serve some Hawaiian food, have a taco bar, celebrate Star Wars.”

Thomas guided attendees through exercises that sparked their creativity, such as mashing up office products with various modifiers and adding words of fun. Attendees then were tasked with creating an office event based on the words they received.

The results were inspiration for a whiteboard float parade, with departments creating a whiteboard float and parading them through the office. The other was a idea for an awesome, outdoor travel stapler show, where employees used staplers to compete at shooting at targets.

Thomas said lightening up in the workplace isn't just about playing games, it is also an effective tool in dealing with problem solving.

“When you're dealing with serious subjects at work, try adding a modifier, like 'wacky,'” Said Thomas. “Sometimes shoving two concepts together can help bring a different perspective. I'm not saying change your work or outcomes or objectives, but why work in a hostile place?”

Austin Locke attended the workshop as a stand-in for his boss, who couldn't make it. Locke, who works for University of Colorado-Denver, said he enjoyed the workshop and would take the information back to incorporate in his office.

“I see an application in our office to come up with some new and interesting ways to look at older issues,” said Locke.

Attendees were served Funyuns and fun-sized Snickers candy bars during the workshop. Thomas, the presenter, is also the owner of Buzzcut, a company promoting workplace fun. More ideas can be found at buzzcut.com.


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