Fun Work: What’s the Problem?

I was FaceTiming with my dad yesterday, and in the midst of having a panic attack about trying to figure out what I odplogo_small_3_400x400-1wanted to do with my life, he told me that some of the best advice he could give me was to pursue a career that ‘made me feel like I wasn’t going to be working a day in my life’. In other words, a career, and workspace, that I would have fun in. Automatically, I knew it wasn’t going to be a job that ended up with me in a cubicle. It was this idea of ‘fun’, though, that reminded me of the video about Pixar’s cereal bar that I watched a few weeks ago. In order to bring all of the workers together during work, the cereal bar was implemented as a tool of communication and leisure in the midst of a busy day. This fun, community driven environment was similar to that of Oops Doughnuts, where I interned last summer. Being a film production company, I knew that the office was going to be kooky and quirky; I just didn’t know how kooky. Everywhere I walked, I was surrounded by little toys and trinkets, which oftentimes ended up on my desk with me while I was working.  All of the interns worked at a large rectangular table together, which in itself sparked a lot of conversation between us, even when we were supposed to be working. That being said, though, all of our work did get done. So, how bad can it be to have fun in the workplace?

Andrew Ross, in his book No-Collar: The Humane Workplace and Its Hidden Costs, states ‘that the most important influence of the New Economy will be on employees’ expectations of work conditions, not on the nature of investment or business opportunities’ (15). In other words, that the employees work experience is more important than money. The idea of the no-collar worker is ‘to extract value from any waking moment of an employee’s day’ (146), instead of forcing them into an unpleasant environment. It’s this value that so many companies in America don’t have. With this no-collar value, Ross describes the two companies that he observed, Razorfish and 360Hiphop. Unlike a majority of other companies, they have an atmosphere purely created for the satisfaction of the worker. Because of this, it gave the workers the illusion that they were not working for corporate America, even though, they were. Unlike other corporate office spaces, the atmospheres of the two companies were ‘as good as it gets’ (57). The layout of the building was open, making music and positive worker-to-worker contact an everyday thing.

mediumSo, is having fun in the workplace a bad thing?  I agree with Ross when he expresses how it’s this pleasing atmosphere that the line between work and play it blurred. Going back to Pixar with its cereal counter and Oops with it’s toys and huge intern table, can it get to a point of too much fun?  Can it get to a point where work and fun literally become one-in-the same? As Ross notes, ‘when work becomes sufficiently humane, we are likely to do far too much of it, and it usurps an unacceptable portion of our lives’ (255). But I raise this question again: Is this really a problem? Laws about work and overtime aside, is this bad for the individual, or on a more macro scale, a corporation, to have people wanting to work so long? I feel like if the work was being conducted in an atmosphere that was reflexive of ‘bad work’, then it wouldn’t be beneficial for the individual, as much as it would be for the corporation. If both parties are happy, what is the real problem with treating work as fun?

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