Forever ago, I wrote an article extolling the virtues of fun in social work. What I didn’t touch on was what that looks like or rather what fun as a social work can look like since we all have different definitions of fun. I’ll break it down into what we can all do as individuals and what supervisors and the organization can do as a whole to support a fun, thriving work environment. Again, for those who’ve forgotten or never knew, having fun (aka playing) leads to increased creativity, innovation, and productivity. There’s no reason to be a stick in the mud, especially if you want to excel at what you do.
- Share the funny: youtube videos, newspaper cartoons, something hilarious that someone said (while still being mindful of feelings), etc., etc., etc. It’s quick. It can be sent with the click of a button. Even a brief laugh can up the endorphins and provide the necessary motivation to continue with the day.
- Exercise breaks: Do some pushups between notes, take a walk around the building or even better outside during a break, challenge your boss to an arm wrestling competition. Exercise also boosts endorphins, and if you sit a lot help combat all the problems that go along with that.
- Jam out to some tunes: Play your favorite music while writing notes. Listen to it in the car on your way to a home visit or meeting. Utilize it during therapy sessions with clients. There are a million ways music can create a more fun and therapeutic work environment.
- Books on smart devices (this is assuming most people no longer do books on tape or CD): Great if you have to spend a lot of time driving for your gig. Or you’re waiting for a client to show up. Veg out to something mindless or learn a new language. The sky’s the limit!
- Movies: If there’s an extra computer in the office put one on while writing notes. Use them for therapeutic interventions with clients. There’s plenty of inspiration on film out there.
Remember your employees matter too: While ultimately it is about serving clients, it’s your responsibility to make sure you have a staff that’s capable of doing so and that means cultivating an environment of support, inspiration, creativity, and of course, the theme of the article, fun! Utilize your employees’ passions to more thoroughly serve the organization’s mission. While it may not always fit into a neat, tidy, organized job description it is more likely to benefit both the employee and clients when the employee is passionate about what they’re doing. And one thing we should be well aware of as social workers is that life is not neat, tidy, and organized.
- Creative corners: Speaking of cultivating creativity, set aside space and time each week for employees to work on a creative project of their choosing. It could be for the actual work environment or for themselves. If that seems frivolous, remember that creativity is what leads to lasting change, as well as job satisfaction. There are businesses that set aside up to half a work day each week for employees to work on a creative project that had NOTHING to do with their actual job and it was found that productivity in their workplace increased significantly, as well as innovative thinking and solutions to actual work challenges.
- Office Olympics: I don’t remember where I ever saw or heard about this but I’ve been itching to race down a hallway in my rolley chair ever since. It could be an annual tradition. Hmmm…
- Secret Santas, office potlucks, funny employee awards, happy hours, etc., etc., etc. There are a million fun little ways to boost workplace morale. Find the ones that work for your environment and utilize them often. It’s all right to not spend every single moment working. More work gets done that way anyway.
- Encourage wellness. Don’t ask your employees to work crazy long hours. Provide incentives for physical exercise. Provide emotional support for those tough days that are a given for social workers. Provide surprise days off. Hold yoga or dance or whatever classes on the job site.
There are an infinite amount of ways to have more fun as social workers or in a workplace in general. These are just a few to get you started. It may seem that this would be a waste of time since often there isn’t enough time to do everything that needs to be done as a social worker as it is. However, it’s more likely that taking the time out to take care of yourself (the much lauded self-care) and your employees you’ll find more time to do the social work. Besides helping others should be fun, not work. Maybe the name social work should just be changed to social fun!