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Chinese president Hu Jintao plays table tennis at Waseda University's Okuma Garden House on May 8, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. (Koichi Kamoshida/2008 Getty Images)
Chinese president Hu Jintao plays table tennis at Waseda University's Okuma Garden House on May 8, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan. (Koichi Kamoshida/2008 Getty Images)

Start: Mark Evans

Yes, a fun workplace pays off Add to ...

I met with a client last week who enthusiastically talked about the importance of having fun at work.

He repeated it several times during a two-hour meeting to the point where I started to write it down in capital letters on my notebook.

Fun is not something that is raised when it comes to the corporate landscape. Work is, after all, supposed to be work. Fun happens after 5 p.m., when you leave the office.

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Or is it?

At a time when a growing number of employees, particularly younger people, are seeking jobs that offer more than just a pay cheque, maybe fun should receive more love and attention. Maybe we should be thinking about fun as something as important as a pay cheque or encouraging employees to provide their ideas and suggestions.

So how can companies make work fun? It's not like they can suddenly make fun happen.

There are dozens of ideas but maybe the place to start is to create an environment in which employees enjoy each other's company. If work means seeing your friends, then it may start to feel less like work, and more like a community.

This community could be nurtured by creating a place where employees get together to have lunch or take a coffee break. Rather than people eating at their desks or visiting the food court, they could get together to talk about things other than work. To encourage the idea of a communal lunch, a company could do pot lucks based on a theme, or host a free lunch once a month.

Another way to jump-start fun is to let employees show their personality. It could include encouraging them to decorate their desks with family photos, or things that reflect their interests outside of work. Someone who's into hockey, for example, could have a poster of a favourite team prominently displayed. The ideas is to allow people to add a personal touch so the work place seems less corporate.

Another easy to way to infuse fun is to provide games so people can take a break. A ping-pong table is a staple of many small companies. At my first start-up, Blanketware, the ping-pong table was a place that brought people together from different departments who otherwise may have not spent any time socializing. It provided a break from work, as well as healthy competition.

At the end of the day, fun is important because it gives employees another reason to enjoy work that has little or nothing to do with compensation. While making a good living is important, more people want work to offer more, including having fun.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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