girls just wanna have funLet’s talk about fun and work – putting two words into the same sentence that you don’t often see side by side. I recently attended a fundraiser organized by Ulster Bank. After a day of activities, we ended up eating an agricultural sized burger in The Grand Social in Liffey Street. Then came the pièce de résistance.  A 10-member band (Ulster Bank staff) pulled together for a 1-night-only gig. Introduced individually by a very funny MC, and led by Karl O’Connor on Trumpet (I won’t keep blowing on about him), they rocked the Casbah. The audience (again, Ulster Bank staff) was ecstatic. The energy level throughout was higher than the encore at a U2 concert. When you witness events that are run well, it gladdens the heart.  Work colleagues, having great fun,  a recipe for high productivity.

No Clothes:
Donkey’s years ago, I worked in Frank O’Neill’s in Phibsborough.  The company made seats for cars and pubs and I had the wonderful title of Spot Welders Helper (a candidate for the least prestigious job in Ireland?). When the weather was good, as a break from the sheer boredom of building car seats, we swam in the Royal Canal which runs along the back of Mountjoy Prison. One lunchtime, as a joke, the lads in the job followed me down to the canal and ‘borrowed’ my clothes, shoes and towel while I was in the water.  I had to walk back to the factory in swim trunks – through the heart of Phibsboro. The 19A route must have been entertaining that day for the people staring out the bus window.  That story reminds me of another ‘canal incident’.

Canal Swimming:
Andy Flynn who worked in the Bank of Ireland for many years has, shall we say, a ‘well developed’ sense of humour.  He was involved in a somewhat similar prank. One of the new hires was a guy ‘up from the country’.  Apparently, this bloke was always complaining about the cost of living in Dublin and the fact that he never had any extra cash (‘at the end of the money, there’s always a bit of month left over’). A £100  bet was made (this was pre-Euro) that he wouldn’t swim in the canal in his underpants at lunchtime. He didn’t believe that Andy and Co. would actually pay up, so they duly signed a ‘contract’ to get him on board.  The word went around Bank of Ireland head office and dozens of people lined up along the bank to watch him strip and dive into the canal. The day in question was quite cold, so this was a combined feat of stoicism and exhibitionism. Afterwards, when he came to collect, they wouldn’t hand over the money as the contract clearly stated the ‘Royal’ Canal – and he’d actually dived into the Grand Canal! (being a country lad  he didn’t realise that he’d been duped). Both of the above stories are a bit non PC (perhaps even a tad cruel), but great fun at the time and also pretty harmless.

Using Humour:
Humour always works better when it’s close to the edge.  But, in recent times, a lot of the fun has been surgically removed from the workplace. Why? Because people who are in charge (but not fully confident) are afraid of bullying allegations and paranoid about causing even a hint of offence. We’ve become so PC that we take the low road, doing absolutely nothing that steps a centimeter over the line. The Result: Staff bring their hands to work and their personality to the pub. Confident managers are not afraid to have fun at work. They understand that humour, learning and productivity are complementary and take the risk to secure the productivity prize. Here’s the deal.  Humanizing the workplace,  releases enormous extra energy. So ask yourself this simple question: Are you good fun to be around?



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