Work. The word itself is enough to send shivers down the spine of most normal people. Especially if you say it on a Sunday evening. The. Worst. If faced with going to work, or the beach (without consequence) it’s a pretty safe bet which choice will win out. There are some people who actually “like” their jobs and I’d bet even THEY would choose the sun and sand! I know, seems ridiculous but those unicorns really do exist. So, what the hell is the point of this piece given this bleak intro? Well, we intend to make a case that despite how we all feel about worthat which shall not be named – it’s in our best interest to try and have some genuine, honest-to-goodness fun while you are workigoing about your business.

The Experiment

In the spirit of fun and overly competitive Italians from New Jersey (that’s a thing), we decided to put our theory about having fun at work to the test. Specifically, we decided it was time to resolve one long-standing DSM argument. In the past, Emily and Leon could be heard screaming at each other from opposite ends of the office about various aspects of Italian-American culture. One in particular: how to make a proper pot of red sauce. (Yes, red sauce. Not gravy. We aren’t animals. At least, on that point, they agree.) Here are the specifics:

  • Leon believes that adding white sugar to red sauce is the best way to go.
  • Emily believes Leon dishonors his entire family simply with the thought of this atrocity.

There would be competition to settle this dispute. At the end, one person would claim bragging rights forever…or at least until they found something else to argue about. Leon and Emily would each make a pot of red sauce and a panel of judges would taste test. Looking back on it now, this was simply a ploy to make two employees cook for the entire agency. Anyway, it worked. It was delicious, we got our answer and the DSM family became a little closer as a result.


Here’s what the competitors want you to know…

Leon’s Take: Practice What You Preach

What is work if not a means to an end? A way to support your family, to earn a decent wage, to afford certain luxuries and ultimately, make money. But, let’s face it. We spend more time at the office than we do at home in any given day. That’s a tough pill to swallow when you consider how short life really is. Sheesh, this shit just got very existential. So the call to arms, and the purpose of this piece, is to challenge people in positions of influence to do everything they can to make that which shall not be named feel less like, well…work. There, I said it.

I’m a member of the executive committee at DSM, which grants me the ability to have an effect on our overall corporate culture. Now I must caveat this – we’re a creative marketing agency, which inherently means our culture is a whole lot different than most other organizations. It will sound a little hypocritical that a guy with a pool table in the middle of his office is saying you should really “try to have more fun at work”. But once again, this is a call to arms. We’re trying to lead by example and share how we’ve been able to accomplish this so that you can too. In my position of leadership, I have to consider that a business, regardless of your industry or specialization, is nothing more than a collection of good people just trying to get by.

So, we hosted a sauce off! Seems ridiculous at face value, but the social media shit-talking leading up to our little in-office event, paired with the time we got to spend together, was invaluable. We ask a lot of our staff day in and day out. After all, we’re in the services business, which means there is very little opportunity to be switched off. But no one can grind away indefinitely and we shouldn’t expect anyone to do so. Leadership is about doing what’s right for your clients, sure. But it’s also about doing what’s right for your staff. That hour of good sauce, meatballs, and some red wine was exactly the right recipe for success in a small organization with crazy deadlines.

I’m not advocating a wholesale abandonment of decorum. For many businesses, it is difficult to get away with a sauce off or a Friday afternoon beer pong tourney (we’ve done that), or a shoeless kickball tourney out on the front lawn of our office (done that, too), or a pumpkin carving contest (that was fun), or an afternoon trip to Pennings Farm for cider and donuts (awesome fall activity for DSM staff). You get the picture – we do this a lot. Regardless of whether or not someone stays at DSM, they always tell wonderful stories of what it’s like to work here. And that makes it worth it.

Emily’s Take: Nurture Your Culture or GTFO (Excuse the Expression.)

During the first five years of my career, I worked in a variety of different industries. I started as a Publishing Assistant. Then, a Bridal Consultant. Then, Web Copywriter. Currently, I am the Content Marketing Director for the greatest marketing agency in all of NJ. As a result of this sometimes-nauseating-sometimes-thrilling rollercoaster ride, I’ve seen a lot. (Some things, unfortunately, I cannot unsee.) I’ve learned a lot of shit (and some useful information, too) and met people from all walks of life. While each job afforded me new life lessons, a salary and a different favorite lunch spot, undoubtedly the most important takeaway has been the relationships that have endured. These relationships are the shiny trophy you get to take home with you at the end of the game. Other metaphors include:

  • Spoils at the end of a long-waged war
  • Jeans that fit after months of tedious diet and exercise
  • The Tootsie roll center of that otherwise disgusting Tootsie pop?

I digress.

As Leon so succinctly put it, work can be tough. Work is often perceived as a means to an end. If the only way we can look at this day-to-day necessity is as “a necessary evil,” we should at least acknowledge the benefits. In my opinion, when you reflect on your current position, your “pros” column should read as follows:

1) Free coffee at the office
2) Casual Fridays
3) All my new friends

Maybe not in that particular order. Here’s the problem, though. Because these relationships are cultivated in a work environment, they are susceptible to crashing and burning pretty easily. Sometimes, there is competition, frustration and monotony associated with the W-word. That said, when a company gives a shit about providing unique opportunities to employees to collaborate and engage socially, these relationships can thrive. It took five years of sad cubicles, frustrating bosses and plain yellow birthday cake to find one such workplace. Now, despite losing this sauce competition to Leon (MC Hammer Pants) Grassi, I am lucky to work at DSM where my CEO prioritizes a culture of inclusivity and open communication. And while we may not be able to choose to NOT work (Because, c’mon…who are we, Rockefeller?), we can choose to work for an organization that understands the value in building lasting relationships.

Here’s the plain and simple of it. We end up spending a huge portion of our lives in the same place at the same desk with the same people. Those people end up shaping our lives in so many ways. If your CEO/President/Head-Dude-In-Charge doesn’t understand the value of an environment conducive to creating new relationships, you have two options:

  1. Give the boss man this recipe for special sauce for having fun at work
  2. Get the hell out of there and find a place that feels like home.

A Case of the Mondays? F That

For far too long, the common perception of a corporate office has been cubicle farms and a shitty old water cooler. Peter Gibbons got it right: break down the walls. It’s 2018 and the game has changed, and ya know what…there’s no reason you can’t have a good time at work, nay, the place you earn a living and still get the job done.

“Human beings were not meant to sit in little cubicles staring at computer screens all day, filling out useless forms and listening to eight different bosses drone on about about mission statements.” – Peter Gibbons