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All About You: Have fun – at work!

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Motivating employees to work safely is part of the safety professional’s job. But who motivates the motivator? In this monthly column, veteran safety pro and professional speaker Richard Hawk offers his entertaining brand of wisdom to inspire safety pros to perform at their best.

When you’re at work, are you having fun? I hope so, because when you’re having fun you’re more likely to be performing better than if you are feeling “down.” Plus, it feels good when you’re having fun!

However, fun isn’t the same as play. The word “fun” has many meanings – the one I’m using is “energetic enjoyment.”

It can be difficult sometimes to have fun at work, especially if you’re a safety professional. You have to listen to complaints, point out hazards and, at times, even discipline your co-workers both informally and formally.

It’s not merely my opinion that having fun improves performance – many studies and real-world results have shown that when employees are having a good time at work, they perform better. For example, results from a University of Florida study show that when “workers on the clock had a good time they accomplished more.”

“With people spending more and more of their lives at work, they feel they might as well make it enjoyable, and our study finds surprising payoffs when they do,” said Fluegge Woolf, who is a management professor at Southeast Missouri State University. “Not only did employees report being in better moods and more engaged in their work, they also performed better on the job.”

I’d like to share with you some things I do now (and did when I was a full-time safety professional) to have fun. I’m sure they will work for you as well.

Change the way you approach the tasks you don’t like

Telling people to “put on your hard hat” or stopping a job was one of my least favorite things to do when I worked as a safety supervisor at a nuclear site. But I had to do it. So, I figured out ways to make it not only more palatable, but actually enjoyable. (Although I didn’t hope I would catch someone violating a safety rule, I did enjoy the interaction when it happened.) One thing I did that was both funny and effective was to start playing the blues on a harmonica I kept in my pocket whenever a first-time offender gave me a lame excuse about why he wasn’t wearing proper personal protective equipment. With a little imagination, I’m sure you could come up with practical and fun ways to make the tasks you don’t enjoy fun – or at least less distasteful.

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Vary your routine

For three years I taught the same safety classes every week (“Respiratory Protection” on Wednesdays, “Rad Worker” on Mondays, etc.). Although some things couldn’t be changed, such as showing certain videos, a good percentage of what I did could be varied. Consequently, every few months I would think of new ways to present a topic. Sometimes, instead of using slides, I would create a competition that still met the objectives of the course. Or I would simply change the order in which I presented the course material. I also solicited ideas from my students on ways I could make the training more entertaining.

These minor changes helped make my job more interesting and helped keep me inspired. Even if you don’t conduct any training, you can do the same with your work routine. I’ve found that a small change in routine has the power to make a big difference in helping you enjoy your time at work.

Lighten up and look for laughs

Sure, safety is serious business, but that doesn’t mean you have to be stern and reserved to be an influential and effective safety professional. At times, it’s inappropriate to be lighthearted – such as during an injury investigation. But most times you can be upbeat and playful. Even now, not only do I perform better as a speaker and consultant when I am having fun, but my audiences come along for the ride and have fun, too.

So regardless of your personality type, to the degree that it feels natural, you can have fun at work. So, my wish for you is that for the rest of the day, and the days to come, that when you’re at work, you have fun!

Richard Hawk helps companies around the world create more vibrant safety cultures by showing them how to make safety fun. As a professional speaker, author and musician, he also inspires employees to focus better and enlightens safety leaders about ways to increase their influence. To learn more about Richard, visit www.makesafetyfun.com.

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