October 31, 2019

Becky, our Creative Programmes Coordinator, talks about taking fun seriously in the People United office.

Last year at the end of our 2018 commission programme one of the partners reflected on their experience and said that they regretted not being present for more workshops. She said that often there were other things to do at her desk and that ‘having fun’ (taking part in the workshop) was easily pushed to the bottom of her priorities. At the end of the commission she realised that the having fun part was important – through having fun the participants got to know one another better and were in turn better prepared to support each other when emotional, grittier moments arose.

This reflection had to fit on a post-it and so she wrote ‘take fun more seriously’.

I have thought about that phrase most weeks since.

One of the things that falls into my ‘having fun’ category is playing games, I’m the person who dusts off Cluedo at Christmas and gets everyone around a table to play. I’ve also started a tradition at People United for leaving presents whereby we make the person who is leaving a customised board game. I’ve turned Operation into ‘Operations Manager’ and Snakes ‘n’ Ladders into ‘Stacie’s Social Media Ladders’.

My most recent game has been in the People United office, we have just finished our second Great British Bake Off (GBBO) Sweepstake.

How it worked:

  • Everyone was assigned a couple of bakers via a raffle, if your baker left the competition then you would have to do an office chore. For example, hoovering or washing-up.
  • The person who had the Star Baker was given a paper crown for the week. Some wore the crown with pride while others positioned it on top of a tea towel on their desk for all to see.
  • The person who had the baker who won this year’s GBBO is due to be awarded a small gift purchased by the rest of the team. Last year it was a Paul Hollywood brownie mix and baking tray!

Now, People United is a small team. There are currently four of us in the core team and most of us are part-time. We’re consistently really busy and sometimes a bit stressed … which is probably no different from other arts organisations, workplaces and lifestyles.

But what a difference the chance to win a paper crown can make!

The sprinkle of silliness (have you seen our sticker chart?), discussions about Noel Fielding’s shirts (yes!) and some friendly competition has lifted the mood in the office mid-week.

On Tuesdays we would look forward to seeing how ‘our’ bakers got on, we’d talk about who’d be watching it when and ask what the theme of the week was. Wednesdays were obviously a big day as we had to have weekly coronations for the person who won Star Baker, as well as chatting about the mishaps and triumphs of the bakes from the night before.

It gave us a new commonality, something to discuss in depth that was unrelated to work and weekly excuses to celebrate.

The week that Amelia left GBBO I enjoyed my penalty of office chores- I took out all the recycling and polished everyone’s workspaces. You got to choose what you did as a chore, and actually it felt more like ‘doing a kindness’… I think we’ll rename it that for next year.

So, I think it’s important to note here that although we like Bake Off, none of us are superfans. Janice watched for the first time this year and admits to fast-forwarding through some of the programme. The point is, we’ve been more serious about the sweepstake than the soggy bottoms and handshakes.

When I sat at my desk cutting out bakers faces to make a raffle last year I think some of the team were a bit suspicious of my organised geekiness. However they kindly played along and quickly got into it. So much so, that this year someone else did the raffle on my behalf and revamped the paper crown with some stickers! I think this ‘taking fun seriously’ thing might be contagious!

The GBBO game is just one way in which I’ve been responding to ‘taking fun more seriously’. Our sweepstake was small, low risk and quite silly, but it was also a little bit special and of course – lots of fun.

Do you have any good-hearted workplace competitions, games or fun moments that you could share with us? Please comment below and share your stories with us.

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