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Having fun?

Friday 11-09-2015 - 14:20

A blog from Simon Blake, NUS Chief Executive.

Lots of people are asking how I am enjoying my role at NUS.  I am enjoying it a lot and I am enthusiastic about it; so I generally describe some of the things I am learning and often pause for breath and conclude by saying 'it is fun'. 

A couple of weeks ago I was met with a look of horror and then challenged when I said it was fun. In summary the challenges centred around the disbelief of how an organisation that is working on difficult issues such as swingeing cuts to Further Education, abolition of maintenance grants in Higher Education or challenging inequalities such as the Black Attainment Gap or seeking to protect the Disabled Students Allowance can be 'fun'.

It is a fair challenge and one I have talked about with a number of friends and colleagues since, and it is clear that for some it might be a slightly unusual word to use, although Rosie Ferguson said it is one of the core values at London Youth and people expect meetings to be fun. Given that I am going to continue using it, I want to explain what I mean. Saying something is fun is not meant to trivialise or demean the importance of any individual issue or the issues that we work on. Instead it reflects my belief;

1. that campaigning for change, preventing prejudice and securing social justice is a privilege and makes me to want to come to work every day.

2. courageous conversations, disagreement and conflict are an important and necessary part of learning, innovation and achieving excellence. Whilst many people find them difficult if you are working in an organisation with shared goals and core values these conversations approached with 'kind eyes' are really important in success. 

3. that the act of going to work can and should be fun, and that it is an employers responsibility to make sure that we do as much as possible to encourage fun, laughter and happiness within the office. That is why we have commissioned a 'laughologist' to work with the NUS team at our staff conference, ‘NUS at our Best’, later this month - the  evidence tells us that happiness and fun is a core part of engagement, motivation, productivity, strong performance and improved ‘customer experience’ in the work place. 

Certainly my experience of working in organisations where teams want and have 'permission' to have fun and laugh have been the most enjoyable; enjoyment and productivity are inextricably linked. So when I say fun, I don't mean every single moment is a laugh, but that the overall experience is enjoyable, that it is an inspiring place to work and that it feels like we make a difference. 

When and what would you and your teams describe as fun in the workplace? If you are a leader do you pay enough attention to fun at work?

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