I read an article on LinkedIn a few days back which hit home a bit for me. It was about having fun at the office. We don’t have much fun in our office anymore –the depressed economic climate took care of that. No summer picnics or golf outings, no Christmas parties or lunch get togethers. We don’t have the budget for it. We’re using that money to market our services to more clients, and doing everything in our power to keep our people paid and off the unemployment line. We’re working harder and doing with less.


You can feel the weight of people’s moods here. There is no hope for pay raises or bonuses, not until things turn around. In the meantime I have been searching for ways to at least improve employee morale. I want to give them something to cheer them up – something to smile or laugh about. Then I got an idea. I’m not exactly sure where it came from – it just occurred to me.


I am a hobby woodworker. I love to make small stuff, like cribbage boards, and pens, and kids’ toys. Well, my idea was this – rubber band guns.


Now I know we live in an era when guns in general are the topic of heavy debate. I won’t even go into that. I don’t even consider what I made as weaponry. While I can hear the echo of my mother’s voice in the background talking about shooting someone’s eye out, it is overridden by the voice of innovation and reason. We are not 10 year olds looking to start a war. I am reasonably positive there is no one in our office with serial killer tendencies. They’re pretty much your normal average everyday Joe’s and Jane’s.They come to work, they do work, and then they go home to their families and friends.I talk to them every day. They seem stable enough.


So instead of continuing to justify myself, here’s how it all went down. I made the above “dueling pistols”. Cost:scrap wood, glue, and 2 clothes pins.In other words, $0.00 – zero (not considering labor, equipment usage costs, opportunity costs, depreciation, or any other accounting terminology I use in my normal business day). I brought them into work, and went to see our staff. Without any preparation or fanfare, I challenged one of our staff to a re-enactment of the famous Alexander Hamilton / Aaron Burr duel. He happily accepted.


We stood back to back, walked off 10 paces, turned and fired. Neither rubber band was able to cover the distance. We repeated the process at 5 paces, and both missed our respective targets. On the third attempt, I was gunned down by my opponent. His projectile rubber band hit my pants leg and fell to the floor.My rubber band went wide right, barely making it to my opponent. The staff laughed.I had not heard any laughing in quite a while. We had fun – in the office. We proceeded to discuss the weapons involved, childhood memories of rubber band fights, and simply had an enjoyable break. When I went back to my desk, everyone was returning to their work – and they were still smiling. Mission accomplished!


Well we certainly were not 100% productive during those 15 or so minutes it took for the re-enactment, but I am willing to bet that the work performed following the break was done a little better, as everyone’s mood had been lifted a point or two.


So now I am the newly elected vice president of fun. The pressure is on me to come up with something more fun and creative. It can’t cost anything and it can’t take significant time away from people’s productive time – let’s be very clear on that. I am the accountant after all, and no one knows more than me what work breaks really cost, and how difficult it is to measure intangible benefits like how an employee’s mood can affect the level of productivity.


If anybody has any ideas out there, I would love to hear about them.


Michael Paulson
Follow Michael @PaulsonMichaelJ
CareerToolbox international, LLC
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