How to have fun at work while staying productive

By Robert Half on 22 May 2024
Estimated Read Time: 5 minutes

Sir Richard Branson once said, “Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?”

Contrary to opinions about work being no place for fun, Branson makes a valid point. With an ‘epidemic of stress’ plaguing Singaporean workers, his quote offers some timely food for thought.

The Business Times reports that workers are facing declining productivity off the back of rising stress. The sobering revelations indicate that more than half of Singaporean workers (52 per cent) report that they are now more sensitive to stress compared to the previous year. The research also found that almost half of Singaporeans (43 per cent) openly admit that their mental health is negatively impacting their work productivity.

These numbers reflect the increasing burden Singaporean workers carry every day in their professional lives. With many Singaporeans experiencing burnout, anxiety, isolation, and depression, it’s time for a change.

Could a fun workplace culture be part of the solution? According to the Harvard Business Review, the answer is a resounding ‘YES’. Research suggests that fun has a positive impact on engagement, creativity, and purpose — increasing employee retention and reducing turnover. Furthermore, research shows that when we make time for joy and laughter, we have a greater capacity for commitment and resilience.

Want to know how to put the ‘fun’ in ‘functional’? Read on to discover how to have fun at work while staying productive.

Related: How to be happy in your career: 9 tips that don’t involve money

The Fun Guide

Don’t be fooled into thinking that fun should only be associated with holidays, weekends, and play. There’s no shame in injecting some fun into your workday! A little fun can go a long way, especially when it helps to reduce stress, boost personal connections, and increase workplace positivity (and productivity for that matter).

Andrea Wong, Managing Director at Robert Half Singapore, believes fun is one of the most effective ways to enrich your employee experience. She says, “There are many times at work when we need to remain professional. However, a relentlessly high-pressure environment isn’t good for anyone.

We need to embrace an appropriate level of fun and playfulness to boost our well-being, our creativity, and our team’s wider project outcomes. Balancing fun and productivity is truly essential for helping our team to thrive.”

Fun doesn’t have to mean laziness, poor-tasting pranks, or inappropriate behaviour. Fun is all about fostering a sense of community, strengthening relationships, and providing a break from routine tasks.

Wondering how to have fun at work while staying productive? Stuck on how to inject some fun into your day? Start with some tried and tested strategies below. Remember, these are just ideas – you may need to discuss them with your employer first. At the very least, they can serve as a conversation starter about how you can incorporate play and fun into your workplace.

1. Keep it small and simple

A positive workplace culture isn’t the product of expensive initiatives, often it’s the simple things (like those below) that can inspire the most smiles.

  • Acknowledging birthdays – Whether you’re celebrating with a cake, a party, a team break, or a simple ‘happy birthday’, recognising employee birthdays is a surefire way to boost employee connection. Don’t be afraid to set up a birthday calendar to ensure no birthday goes uncelebrated!
  • Quick team-building games – there isn’t always time (or money) for an all-day team-building session. That said, it doesn’t have to be skipped entirely. Use 5 or 10-minute team-building games as a way to take a ‘brain break’, break the ice, or inject some energy into your day. From interpretive drawing to co-worker bingo, the options are endless. Take the time to find the games that will resonate and recharge your unique team.
  • A gratitude board – When employees feel valued and appreciated, they are more likely to feel motivated and purposeful. A gratitude board does just that! Simply set up a board where team members can post notes of appreciation for their colleagues. Whether it’s acknowledging a job well done or a praiseworthy action, these little notes of gratitude can serve as a big trigger for happiness within the team.

2. Get on board with gamified learning (and friendly competition)

Want to make work more engaging? Want to encourage healthy competition and drive productivity? Perhaps gamification is the answer! Introducing elements of gamification into daily tasks and projects goes a long way in creating friendly competitions (especially if there are rewards up for grabs). This approach is ideal when it comes to training and skill development. Gamified elements such as points, leader boards, and badges, can boost competitive spirit to make learning new skills more engaging and enjoyable.

Expert tip: Try to offer some light-hearted prizes that tie back to the company's mission or values.

Related: 5 reasons why you should work in tech in Singapore

3. Leverage ‘lunch and learn’ sessions

Andrea Wong credits ‘lunch and learn’ sessions as a unique and engaging way for employees to connect. She says, “The purpose of these sessions is for team members to take turns sharing a personal skill or passion during a lunchtime meeting. It doesn’t have to be work-related, so it lends itself to personal stories, experiences and interests which can boost employee connection.”

By fostering a deeper understanding among team members, these sessions can boost team cohesion, diversity, inclusion, and collaboration (while breaking up the workday with some light-heartedness).

4. Celebrate success

Making time to celebrate accomplishments is central to having fun at work. From big wins to small milestones, visible recognition is a major mood booster and a driving force of motivation for team members.

Organisations that take the time to recognise and reward team efforts are set to enjoy the host of benefits that come with making someone’s day. Whether it’s through verbal praise, recognition programs, awards, or bonuses, appreciation for hard work is invaluable. When team members feel recognised, rewarded, and appreciated, they are more likely to remain consistently productive and motivated.

5. Make an impact

When people consider how to have fun at work while staying productive, community service isn’t always the first thing that springs to mind. That said, introducing goodwill initiatives in the workplace can boost morale and foster team spirit.

Things like charity work, micro-volunteering, and pro bono projects, can allow team members to use their professional skills for short, yet impactful initiatives. This is a meaningful way to offer a sense of purpose, a break from routine tasks, and a new outlet for fresh ideas and creativity.

By taking the time to understand individual interests, organisations can establish charitable partnerships that align with business missions and employee values. With enough employee buy-in, volunteer projects can be a fun and rewarding experience that can enhance employee engagement while creating a positive, community-focused work culture.

Expert tip: If you want to sell this idea to your employer, be sure to remind them how having a shared mission can help strengthen a company’s reputation.

Andrea Wong stresses that balance is key when it comes to fun at work. She says, “Knowing how to have fun at work while staying productive is critical.

The purpose of fun isn’t to derail work but to strategically enhance it. Set the expectations early so that all team members are clear about the parameters – this will stop fun activities from being disruptive. For example, if there is only time for a 10-minute team bonding activity, make that clear from the start.”

“I’ve seen many organisations make excuses to avoid injecting more fun into their workplace. They’ll often resist by saying, ‘We don’t have time for fun’. My response is always, ‘Make the time’. I’ve seen firsthand how fun can be beneficial in the workplace. From higher engagement to better bottom lines, stronger camaraderie to bolstered company cultures, the benefits are truly enormous,” Andrea says.

If you’re thinking, "My team is too introverted for fun", never fear. Andrea says it’s important to start slow. “Fun looks different in every workplace. What is appropriate in one may not be appropriate or well-received in another. It’s important to be tactful and thoughtful about what will land well with your team. If you want to get buy-in from your team, take the time to workshop some activities that will be low-pressure and highly inclusive.”

Expert tip: If you’re a business leader, don’t just dictate fun activities, participate in them. Your enthusiasm is crucial in modelling the behaviours you want to see in your team. Want to level up employee participation? Take the time to solicit employee input on what they find genuinely fun.

Interested in current job openings and pay rates? Check out Robert Half’s dedicated Jobs Page

Singapore considerations

Singapore is widely regarded as a dynamic and competitive hub for global business. With a strong emphasis on efficiency, productivity, and professionalism, Singapore’s bustling workforce is like no other.

While these characteristics have shaped Singapore’s global reputation, they should also shape the way fun is factored into the day-to-day work experience.

If you are trying to determine how to have fun at work while staying productive, take note of the below considerations for Singapore businesses.

  • Hierarchy - Singaporean workplaces tend to be somewhat more hierarchical than those in Western cultures. Fun initiatives should honour this, ensuring that activities feel inclusive and respectful. They should not make anyone feel uncomfortable due to perceived power imbalances.
  • "Kiasu" Mindset - This prevalent cultural attitude is characterised by a fear of missing out, and an intense desire to succeed and avoid losing to others. While this mindset is a driving force for workplace diligence and determination, it can hamper the effectiveness of some fun initiatives if they are seen to undermine ambition. Therefore, it's important to create a space where fun and playfulness are seen as contributing to ambition rather than compromising it.
  • Long working hours – Singapore workplaces are renowned for their long work hours. Because of this, it’s important to be mindful that adding after-hour social events may not be well-received. Focus on infusing fun into the workday itself, and make any extra-curricular activities truly optional.
  • Diversity - Singapore is a multicultural melting pot. So, ensure that you consider a range of different activities that cater to different interests and backgrounds. Be extra diligent in ensuring that the concept of fun is inclusive. You can rest assured that food is always a safe bet in Singapore!
  • Saving face culture – As a defining characteristic of Singapore culture, proper behaviour and the avoidance of conflict is critical. Given that diplomacy and professional reputations are sacred in Singapore, it’s important to avoid overly competitive activities that could lead to a team member feeling publicly embarrassed or, that they've 'lost'. Use any activities as an opportunity to foster harmony, dignity, and positive relationships through team building and cooperative fun.
  • Fun-loving culture - Singapore certainly possess an appreciation for leisure, enjoyment and work-life balance. Incorporating fun at work will likely be high welcomed an encouraged by the workforce.

Andrea Wong says acute awareness of Singaporean cultural factors is the key to maximising fun and productivity. “53% of Singaporean employers say productivity levels have increased in the past 12 months*. This is really promising - I believe these levels can increase further with a thoughtful and considered approach to fun in the workplace.”

Related: “Should I switch jobs?” 5 reasons why Singapore workers should

When it comes to workplace productivity, it’s important not to overlook the ‘fun’ in ‘functional’. Knowing how to have fun at work while staying productive is a game changer for Singapore businesses. From quick activities to larger initiatives, no effort is too small in the pursuit of playfulness. A happy team is a productive team, so don’t be afraid to lean into fun at work – it’s a crucial part of enriching your employee experience with purpose, connection, and enjoyment.

At Robert Half, we can help you land the ideal position to start and progress your career in Singapore. Explore our range of tools and career advice resources or upload your resume online and we’ll be in touch.

Uncover your earning potential in the Robert Half Salary Guide so you can start your salary discussions with the most up to date salary data and insights.

*The study is developed by Robert Half and was conducted online in November 2023 by an independent research company, surveying 250 employers in Singapore. This survey is part of the international workplace survey, a questionnaire about job trends, talent management and trends in the workplace.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Is it okay to have fun at work?

Yes! Contrary to popular belief, workplaces should be a place for fun. Appropriate forms of fun can be beneficial in the workplace. Fun can drive higher levels of employee engagement, improved financial outcomes, stronger camaraderie and more robust company cultures.

2. Does having fun at work increase productivity?

Research suggests that fun at work does increase productivity. In fact, it has a positive impact on engagement, creativity, and purpose — increasing employee retention and reducing turnover.

3. How can a manager create a fun work environment?

Managers can create a fun work environment by setting the tone. Rather than just dictating fun activities, leaders should participate in them. This helps to model the behaviours and attitudes they would like to see in their team. Enthusiasm is essential - so too, is taking the time to solicit employee input on what they find genuinely fun.

4. How can I have fun at work without getting distracted?

  • Integrate brief, structured breaks into your work day.
  • Schedule these breaks in your calendar so you know when a break is approaching and when it’s time to return to work.
  • Use the break time for mood-boosting activities i.e. a short walk, a brief game, or a quick conversation with colleagues.
  • Don’t rely on activities that distract you from tasks for long periods.

5. What are some fun games to play at work?

Every workplace is different – what is fun and appropriate in one may not be fun and appropriate in another. Take the time to solicit employee input on what they find fun and engaging.

Need inspiration? Be sure to spend some time researching fun workplace games. Some examples include:

  • Office trivia
  • Charades
  • Guess who (using a childhood photo or an interesting personal fact)
  • Scavenger hunt
  • Board games
  • Online office games
  • Office bingo

More From the Blog...