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Result: RiverPoint’s turnover rate fell to 25 percent, well below

the industry average. This has been critical to the retention of important

clients.32

formal. In the late 1990s, when the war for talent was most intense, Silicon

Valley companies worked hard to create more fun for younger workers—

putting in game rooms with foosball and pinball, throwing keg parties on

Friday afternoons, creating quiet rooms with recliners for napping, and

providing inflatable ‘‘stress-relief ’’ punching dummies.

After the dot-com bust, many companies curtailed the ‘‘frivolity.’’ Between

2001 and 2003, the American workplace reached unprecedented

levels of productivity, but at a price: People weren’t having any fun. During

this time, some companies felt the need was even greater to reinject some

fun into the workplace to relieve the stress from overloaded work schedules.

Not everyone has the same ideas about what is fun, but most of us

recognize that whether it is planned or spontaneous, fun activities and celebrations

can be highly effective stress-busters. In fact, the more stressful the

workplace, and the more employees are vulnerable to burn-out, the more

need there is for fun and celebration. Studies have actually shown that

workplaces with higher ‘‘fun quotients’’ have lower health-care costs,

higher productivity, and improved morale.

Here are some companies who have woven fun into their cultures:

At ELetter, a direct mail company in San Jose, California, the CEO

pledged that he would wear high heels to the office every day for a

week if they met his ambitious sales goals. They did, and he did.

To build teamwork and keep his executive team sharp, the CEO of

Demandline.com of San Francisco told all five of them to meet at the

airport with cold-weather gear for a five-day trip to an undisclosed

location. They flew to Alaska where they were met by two guides

with ice axes and 70-pound backpacks. They then proceeded to

climb Matanuska Peak.32

At Perkins Cole, a Seattle law firm, ‘‘happiness committees’’ visit employees’

offices, leaving baskets of treats.

Valassis, of Livonia, Michigan, publisher of newspaper coupons and

inserts, holds limerick contests, and sponsors tail-gating parties at college

football games.

At Simmons, the Atlanta mattress manufacturer, employees break the

stress by going on ropes-course training once a year. They even get

to walk a high wire.

Employees at Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C., complained about too

many speeches at the annual holiday party, so the company cut back

on the speech-making and created more time for dancing at the next

year’s party.

Republic Bancorp of Owosso, Michigan, holds an annual Easter egg

hunt.

Third Federal Savings and Loan of Cleveland threw a company-wide

Mardi Gras party breakfast with Polish doughnuts, magicians, and

caricaturists.

Duncan Aviation of Lincoln, Nebraska, announces employees’ birthdays

over the public address system.

At Network Appliance in Sunnyvale, California, a sign welcomes visitors

to ‘‘GALACTIC HEADQUARTERS.’’ At a company rally to

kick off a new sales campaign, there were life-sized cutouts of executives

on the stage in Star Trek costumes.

Auto lending company AmeriCredit in Fort Worth sent each of its

branches a ‘‘fiesta in a box’’ with pin˜ata and salsa music to celebrate

reaching $15 million in loans.

At LensCrafters in Cincinnati, managers and executives wore white

gloves, bow ties, and top hats to welcome employees to the company

party. They also opened their doors and parked their cars.

At Kimberly-Clark in Dallas, one unit staged its own version of Survivor.

At Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut, musicians and clowns entertain

patients and staff, and with each new birth, the Brahms Lullaby

is played on the sound system. 34

Capital One provides each employee a ‘‘fun budget’’ of $80 per quarter

to spend on such activities as white-water rafting.

CDW Computer Centers gives employees free Krispy Kreme

doughnuts once a month and free Dairy Queen every Wednesday in

the summer. If the company meets sales goals, CDW offers an ‘‘oldtimer’’

benefit to anyone with three years of service: a free trip for

the employee and family anywhere in the continental United States

(awarded every other year).

Southwest Airlines organizes spirit parties, cake-decorating contests,

barbecues, and chili cook-offs—all planned by local ‘‘culture committees.’’

Snapple has ‘‘theme Fridays’’—tie-dye day, silly-hat day. One year,

they built a makeshift miniature golf course inside corporate headquarters.

While most of these examples are planned, some of the best stress reducers

are unplanned, such as sharing a cartoon with a coworker, deciding

to go out and rent a comedy video to watch over a lunch hour, having an

impromptu contest to see who can cheer up the grumpiest person in the

office, or buying a beverage on Friday evening for the person with the

toughest experience with a customer.

It’s worth remembering that not all stress can be relieved by a few

moments of fun. More serious and concerted approaches are required to

relieve the root source of stress—an individual struggling to perform a job

for which she is not suited, a bullying manager taking out frustrations from

a dysfunctional home life on his employees, or a management team that

has simply pushed its workforce to the brink of burnout and exhaustion. All

the fun committees in the world cannot remedy these kinds of problems.

Ultimately, it’s a balanced approach combining both serious resolve

and spontaneous fun that spells relief for the kinds of stress that is endemic

in today’s workplaces.