Study Shows, Have Fun First, Work Later


Work hard, play hard. Right? 

We’ve conditioned ourselves to feel like this is the only appropriate order of things. Hello... WorkParty. 

We save up for night's out and brunches for the weekends. We "reward" ourselves for a job well done. We don’t let ourselves Amazon and wine until we’ve pushed through all (OK, most) of those backed-up emails.

[Side-note comment below if you have to get your inbox down to zero.] 

Yet, research shows that waiting to have fun until after we’ve worked doesn’t necessarily make it more enjoyable. Rewind! That's right. You don't have to earn your fun. 

The study shows that fun is just as fun even if you haven’t “earned it” and it can actually motivate us to work smarter.

Fun is just as fun even if you haven’t earned it.

Ed O’Brien, a professor at the Chicago Booth School of Business, discussed his new research in Harvard Business Review:

“We built a makeshift “spa” in the laboratory — with a massage chair and footbath — for 259 ever-at-work University of Chicago students. Students could choose to come during the weeks right after their stressful midterm exam period or during the weeks right before midterms began. (We had essentially the same number of students show up at both time periods, and they were of similar age, gender, etc.) They predicted their enjoyment before visiting and rated their experience afterward.”

The results:

“We found that while the students who visited the spa before midterms predicted that the experience would be less enjoyable due to looming midterms exams, they actually enjoyed themselves just as much as those who visited the spa after midterms.”

While happy hour before work might not be realistic (or desirable), the powerful message that not only are we allowed to loosen up in between all of our obligations -- but it can actually make us more motivated and better equipped to handle our busy days, is a welcome one.

Which means, you can PartyWork. 

Look, we aren't telling you to start your day with a cocktail. That hardly seems productive. But you can have fun before you get the office. You can also have fun AT THE OFFICE. In the age of rise and grind, this is a welcomed alternative. It can also make us more motivated. The happier we are, the more productive and better equipped we feel to handle tough work situations. i.e. that conference call with a client that you really, truly, madly, don't want to take. 

Here's a few ways to flip the script on its unhappy head and get some joy into your life. 

1. Dance in the AM. Remember those wacky lawyers from Ally McBbeal? OK, maybe not. But boy did they dance, and honestly, they made lawyering look like fun. You know which lawyer didn't dance at work and who seemed totally stressed out by her job? Miranda. So go ahead. Dance in the morning. Dance in your office. So many of life's biggest issues can be solved by dancing. 

2. Start an office group chat. Share links and gifs and videos that put everyone in a good mood. That way when you head into a meeting, everyone has a smile on their face. 

3. Don't wait for the weekend to start the rest of your life. Meaning: the time is now. And we'll say it again: dream big, work hard, and party on. 

Whatever your version of fun is, remember: you don’t have to earn it. You already deserve to enjoy yourself and by incorporating more play at the beginning, you’ll give yourself a catalyst to stay motivated and keep hustling. That's what WorkParty is all about.