News in South Africa

News in South Africa

Working and loving it!

written by John Muir, Strategic Development Officer

What if a key corporate strategy was to ensure that the working environment was both fun and happy? The fact is that there exists sufficient evidence to support very clear operational benefits to the above strategy. In their book “The Levity Effect, Gostick and Christopher refer to “fun as serious business” and to a clear “connection between the punchline and the bottom line.” The authors further concur that a happy and fun working environment raises the levels of trust, mitigates turnover and increases profit.

Think for a moment back to your school days (for some this may provide a potential challenge), which class did you enjoy the most and why, which teacher did you like the most and why? What you will probably conclude is that it was the class where you, simply stated, were the happiest. That teacher who both respected you as an individual and believed that anything was possible is often remembered as a favorite.

The Great Place to Work Institute consistently finds in their research that great companies to work for usually score very high on the question “are you working in a fun environment?” The challenge is to detach ourselves from what are at times narrow-minded views and interpretations with regards fun and happy. Fun does not mean ill–disciplined or un-productive, nor does it refer to an absence of responsibility and accountability.

If entities such as Google, KPMG, Southwest Airline and the  Four Seasons Hotels to mention a few, adopt serious strategies towards developing fun and happy working environments, perhaps it’s worth a look see?


‘But polls of employees taken recently for Fortune’s annual listing of the “100 Best Companies to Work For”® in America find that employees in these firms value, primarily, three things. First, to work for leaders who demand and inspire their best. Second, a physical environment that makes work enjoyable. And third, a sense of purpose, and a feeling they’re working for more than a pay cheque. That they’re helping build a company that they can take pride in. In short, some daily meaning along with their daily bread.’[1]

Creating the right environment:

1.      Quality relationships must be encouraged and managed.

2.      First who then what. A fun and happy environment requires the ‘right’ people.  This refers to staff as well as management. Level 5 leaders (Good to Great; Jim Collins) most effectively manage an environment supportive of fun and happy.

3.      The ‘right’ people must reflect the right values, attitude as well as discipline. Isadore Sharp CEO of the Four Seasons Hotel Groups states, “Most companies hire for experience and appearance. We hire for attitude. Competence we can teach. Attitude is ingrained.”[2]

4.      The physical environment is critical in developing a content environment.  “We pay as much attention to employee complaints as to guest complaints.”[3]

5.      Build trust. Develop clear boundaries in which freedom can flourish. Employees must experience a working environment in which they are able to express, innovate and grow.

6.      Create Opportunities. Growth for each staff member must be made possible within the organization. Wherever possible promote from within.

7.      Flexibility. A number of ‘great’ companies allow staff to manage their time without compromising delivery. When staff members are given the freedom to work from home, manage a 40 hour week without being tied to an 8 hour working day, trade leave with colleagues, reschedule around key family responsibilities as well as other crises a culture of trust, discipline and empowerment is created.

8.      Get the ‘thieves’ off the bus. Each organization faces the scourge of theft, each thief has a different title a different activity but ultimately steal the same thing, joy. What follows is a list of possible thieves; staff members motivated by political agendas, insecure leaders and managers, arrogance, lack of vision, a lack of heart and dysfunctional communication.

9.      Each individual must;

9.1 Choose to be happy, your attitude is 100% your responsibility

9.2 Take charge of his/her professional and personal development

9.3 Take responsibility for knowing what is happening at work

9.4 Request feedback regularly

9.5 Make friends

9.6 Avoid negativity, don’t become an ear

Independent financial analysts have studied the financial performance of "100 Best" companies beginning with the publication of the book, The 100 Best Companies to Work For in America (by Robert Levering and Milton Moskowitz, 1984 and 1993), and on an ongoing basis to accompany each of the "100 Best Companies" lists with Fortune since their inception in 1998. Using various profitability indicators, this data illustrates the extent to which the publicly traded 100 Best Companies consistently outperform major stock indices over various periods of time preceding or following the publication of the 100 Best lists![4] Source: Russell Investment Group


Sharp Isadore. 2006. ‘How to create a great workplace anywhere in the world. Great place to work Conference.


Sharp Isadore. 2006. ‘How to create a great workplace anywhere in the world. Great place to work Conference.


Sharp Isadore. 2006. ‘How to create a great workplace anywhere in the world. Great place to work Conference.


Great Place to Work Institute. ‘Financial Results’.

News in South Africa

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay up to date with the work we do by receiving our newsletter.