Since the turn of the century, a growing body of research has systemically examined the role of fun in the workplace. In general, the extant body of research has demonstrated that fun in the workplace has a beneficial impact for individuals and organizations, but some evidence has been mixed. To help advance research in this area, the aims of this paper are two-fold. The first aim is to review previous research on fun in the workplace and identify gaps in the literature to provide direction for future work. The second aim is to offer a theoretical framework that helps explain how individuals may interpret fun in the workplace and how it may be most beneficial. Drawing on the notion that fun in the workplace is in the eye of the beholder, our proposed framework provides a more nuanced understanding of the temporal processes and contextual factors that explain how individuals appraise and ultimately benefit from fun.
For more than 20 years, fun in the workplace has been argued to be a key ingredient to organization success. In their book Built to Last, Collins and Porras (1997) found that two great companies, Marriott and Walt Disney World, have strong corporate cultures that emphasize fun in the workplace. Marriott's core ideology statement is “work hard, yet keep it fun” (p. 89), and Walt Disney World's annual report contained words such as “fun, excitement, and joy” (p. 129). Widely known for its positive workplace, Google leaders believe that the defining mark of fun in the workplace is that “fun comes from everywhere” as reflected in the first quote above (Schmidt & Rosenberg, 2014, p. 56). In fact, rather than trying to manufacture fun in the workplace around specific fun activities, Google incorporates fun in the workplace in a variety of ways. For example, the company celebrates April Fool's Day each year, allows employees to play beach volleyball and ping pong during breaks, and incorporates fun into its office design. The fundamental belief that permeates companies such as these is that fun in the workplace is a central means to promote engagement, cohesive relationships, creativity, and better employee health (Vorhauser-Smith, 2013; Yerks, 2003). Caccamese (2012) argues that although engaging in fun in the workplace does not necessarily create a great workplace, it does help to boost employee camaraderie, build trust, and motivate people to be themselves. Building on these arguments, a growing body of research, which has primarily focused on the individual level of analysis, has emerged to validate the generalizability of the value of fun in the workplace. For example, Karl and colleagues demonstrated that fun in the workplace is positively related to job satisfaction (Karl & Peluchette, 2006a; Peluchette & Karl, 2005), trust in supervisors and coworkers (Karl, Peluchette, Hall, & Harland, 2005), and perceptions of service quality (Karl & Peluchette, 2006b), as well as negatively related to emotional exhaustion (Karl, Peluchette, & Harland, 2007) and turnover intentions (Karl, Peluchette, & Hall, 2008). Furthermore, Tews and colleagues demonstrated that fun in the workplace has a favorable influence on applicant attraction (Tews, Michel, & Bartlett, 2012), job performance (Tews, Michel, & Stafford, 2013), and employee retention (Tews, Michel, & Allen, 2014).