Opinion

Game of Cones: Why Ice Cream Matters

I kicked off my Memorial Day weekend – the official start of summer – by emailing a group of coworkers inviting them GAME OF CONES*: a series of informal, ice cream-based summer meetings.

Immediately after hitting send, I regretted it. Not because I don’t want to hang out with my coworkers and have ice cream. Rather, I worried that I may have crossed the line between “Wendy’s fun to work with” and “Wendy has too much fun at work”. 

I’ve gotten “feedback**” throughout my life that I’m too social or that I joke around a bit much. I’ve been asking myself “when is a bit much too much?” when it comes to the work place. I decided to do some research around when fun at work is not only acceptable, but encouraged.

I’m defining fun as the social aspects of work: establishing friendships, leaving the conference rooms for a little while and celebrating the people I see more than some members of my family. 

The key word here is “social”. One undisputed fact about happiness is that people who feel socially connected are generally happier than those who aren’t.

So, why should we care about cultivating true social connections and happiness in the workplace specifically?

It turns out building social connections increases engagement and productivity – one 2015 study found that the difference in productivity between happy and unhappy employees could be as much as 12%. Not only is fun key to getting work done, it keeps us healthier – meaning lower healthcare costs and fewer sick days. From a recent Harvard Medical School article: Positive emotions have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being in numerous scientific studies. 

Ok, so fun at work increases social connection, which increases happiness, which increase productivity and makes us healthier. I’m feeling less guilty already!

How to fit social time with coworkers into to our already packed schedules? After all, no one really works a 9-to-5 anymore. Good news! It turns out that the average person is productive for 3 hours a day. I thought it was closer to 6 hours: one of my go-to work theories is that after a typical 8 hour day (let’s be honest, for most of us it’s closer to 10), is that you start to see diminishing returns and the need to do rework. So, if we’re only productive for 3 hours a day, surely we can spare 20 minutes occasionally for an ice cream social.

Fun at work isn’t a nice to have, it’s a must have! Shawn Achor, author of one of my favorite happiness books, The Happiness Advantage, sums it up by saying, “How much you give at work directly affects how much you get at work.” 

So, a guilt-free Game of Cones it is! 

***

*Game of Cones: the simple rules are to organize a team of 5 or more people, go to a local ice cream establishment, take a picture and share it with #gameofcones2019.

**On Feedback: Not always a gift, always a data point. My new mantra is that not all feedback requires change. 

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