Growing and nurturing a diverse team will be a new experience for many leaders. While you’re focused on efficiency and ensuring that everyone on the team is getting along well and doing what they are supposed to, there’s another vital aspect you need to pay attention to: Are they having fun? 

Who doesn’t enjoy having fun? It is a common misconception that “having fun at work” means the employees are slacking off and not doing their duties, but it is important to note that fun can come in several forms. First, the old perception of “having fun” should be dismissed because enjoying a day at work does not mean that responsibilities are being neglected. A good team leader knows it is imperative to make the workday as engaging as possible so the employees don’t feel the day is dragging by. People should enjoy coming into the office and avoid the dreaded Sunday Gloom when they know Monday is approaching. 

When It’s All About Work 

I bet you know at least one person who dreads going to work and hates their job. They are miserable and frequently complain about how much they hate being at the office and can’t wait for the day they get to leave. If it isn’t them who hates their job, it’s their colleague at the office who looks unhappy as they type away behind the desk. They come to work, clock in, and clock out for the sake of taking home a paycheck, and that’s about it. There is no joy, motivation, or passion and not an ounce of happiness. Coming to work for them almost feels like a prison sentence, something they are forced to do because they have to earn a living. Maybe at some point, you have felt that way before you found yourself in a leadership position. Here are several reasons why employees could be feeling this way: 

There is no element of play or fun in the tasks that they have to handle.  

They are stressed.  

They don’t feel supported. 

They don’t feel like they have any connections or good relationships with anyone at the office.  
They are not living up to their full potential. 

They don’t see a goal or have a vision of the direction they are going towards. 

They don’t see any room for growth in their current organization. 

Considering that about one-third of an employee’s life is spent at work, that is a lot of time to spend unhappy. Ninety thousand hours of your life, to be precise, are spent at your job, and if you don’t enjoy what you do, you are going to spend a third of your life feeling miserable and dreading every single minute. Thus, how do you protect your team from such an awful work life? 

Employees feel disengaged and demotivated at work when they don’t feel challenged enough. Yes, it isn’t fun that will make them slack off; it’s not being challenged. When employees don’t feel challenged, they can become bored, disengaged, and even complacent. Almost every leader or manager has experienced that dreaded moment when an employee asks to speak to them privately. They walk into the office, and once the doors are shut, the employee hands in their letter of resignation. The leader has felt taken aback or even shocked more than once, especially when the letter comes from one of their best employees.

They often don’t see this move coming and ask the employee, “Why are you leaving? Were you not happy here?”. The leader or manager might even start to question themselves, wondering what they could have done better or whether they are the cause for the employee deciding to leave. Unfortunately, that’s a case of “too little too late.” 

Here’s the thing, the reason your employee is going to give you why they are leaving is not going to be the truth. They will still keep it polite and professional, citing by-the-book reasons. They will be too afraid of burning bridges, and that fear is enough to squash any desire they have to be honest and share the truth. They will not tell you outright that they are leaving because of their tedious work and the demotivation. They will not tell you that they are leaving because they are not having fun, although that would have been one of the key points that factored into their decision. 

Not having fun at work is a big reason many companies are losing good employees. They are not enjoying themselves because they are not working on projects that challenge and energize them. Infrequently, we all have to do tasks that we don’t necessarily like, even leaders. You might hate talking on the phone, but if your job requires you to speak to a client now and then, it’s not the end of the world. However, when employees spend all of their time doing things they hate, the balance is off. This is where leaders run into problems and must quickly think about managing the employee’s emotions before they call it quits altogether.
The Dreaded Stress Factor 

When an employee doesn’t love what they do, just the thought of having to go to work is enough to start triggering stress. Globally, feeling stressed in the workplace is on the rise. Employees in China have the highest level of workplace stress, at a staggering 86%, while 91% of Australian adults report that they feel stressed in at least one major area of their lives. In addition, 25% of employees say that their job is the number one stress factor in their lives and 29% of employees feel quiet or extremely stressed when they’re at work. (The American Institute of Stress, n.d)

What’s worse, job stress is the biggest reason why so many employees fall sick, call in sick, and experience financial or personal problems. The dreaded stress factor is unavoidable if your employees are not enjoying themselves. When you love what you do, somehow, everything still feels manageable. Will the stress disappear completely? No, it’s still there, but you are not focused on the negative aspects of your job because you love what you do, and that passion for the job is enough to get you through it. It is not unusual for employees to experience stress-related anxiety or depression in their careers, an unspoken side effect of what happens when the fun is severely lacking in the environment.  

Unfortunately, those work conditions are more common than a work environment where leaders understand the importance of ensuring that employees enjoy their time at work. Unfortunately, a lot of leaders are still stuck in the mindset that fun means work is not getting done, and people are slacking off. They think along the lines of “you’re not paid to have fun, you’re paid to work,” not realizing that this attitude and mentality are causing stress among employees, which is counterproductive.

Many bosses are so worried about employees having too much fun at work and not performing their duties that they fail to recognize that a stressed-out employee cannot perform their duties well. Stress is a genuine problem at work. A recent report indicated that 25% of employees feel like screaming out loud at work because of stress. Another 14% secretly harbored the desire to punch their colleagues. (The American Institute of Stress, n.d). This is not something you want to experience when you are trying to manage a team of effective, productive employees. Stress is a silent killer, and it becomes worse when we are overworked. Being overworked can affect you significantly, both mentally and physically. We may not feel it while we’re working, but when it hits you, it hits hard. So one day you wake up and realize that you are completely exhausted and burned out because you’ve been overworked for far too long. 

The environment you spend the most time in will have the biggest influence on your psyche. For most people, that’s their workplace. If you’re constantly in a fast-paced, high-pressured, on-the-go stressful environment, it is likely to be one of your triggers. A lot could be contributing to your stress: a manager who is breathing down your neck over looming deadlines, a heavy workload, or struggling to build bonds and connections with your colleagues. It is hard to think clearly, and employees can feel scattered and forgetful. Every day feels like another day of misery where nothing seems to go right. Do you want your team to feel this way? I hope not. Studies show that those who reportedly undergo a lot of stress feel tired all the time and less productive as their day progresses. These are all-natural consequences of what happens when the fun factor at work is overlooked. 

What makes your job as the leader even more challenging when managing a team of diverse employees is that everyone experiences stress very differently. The way one person responds or reacts to the situation probably won’t be the same as that of another person. One person might struggle under pressure, while another might thrive. This makes it even more challenging to identify when an employee might feel too much pressure, since they are unlikely to come to you and tell you outrightly, “I’m feeling stressed at my job.” 

Our bodies were not built to cope with too much stress, and once it reaches the chronic stage, it might be too late. The problem is that we are in a society that has conditioned us to believe that we need to do more in less time, and poor mental health is the price to be paid. So when an employee feels stressed at work, they will never be able to live up to their full potential.

Having fun at work is no longer an option. It is necessary to want a team that is performing, motivated, and able to work together as a unit despite the diversity. This way, you will retain your top performers, increase productivity and build overall team strength. It is the leader’s role to ensure that your team is engaged and enjoying themselves without them having to ask you to do it. Your team will not speak up and tell you that they need more fun or feel stressed. They are not going to speak up because they are not sure if you’re going to support them, stigmatize them, or manage them right out of the role, and they are not willing to risk that. Even when you tell them to feel free to come to you with a problem, they will be hesitant about it. Your employee wants to be at work and do their best, but they can’t be at their best if they are not enjoying themselves, plain and simple. So don’t wait until it’s past the breaking point or for something to happen before you say, “I should have done this.” By then, it’s usually too late. Ensuring that your team is having fun begins when you step into your role as a leader, and it never stops.
Striking a Balance between Work and Play 
The idea of having fun at work needs to be redefined. It is not about hanging around in the break room, sipping coffee, talking, and idling your time away. Having fun at work is about work-life balance, the friendships you make, not having to stress unnecessarily, and looking forward to coming to work instead of dreading it. That is the definition of having fun at work.  
What does work-life balance look like, and how do you promote it? You could encourage your employees not to take their work home with them. Instead, encourage them to break the habit of bringing work home with them (if that is what they’ve been doing) and tell them there is no reason they should feel guilty about it. It would help if you reminded them that they have already put in 7 to 8 hours of their time to commit to their job, and they should use the rest of the day for themselves. 
Another example of encouraging a more pleasant work environment is to reduce the stress your team feels in terms of work—for example, learning to say “no” when they already have too much on their plate. This is a major one and probably the hardest for most people to do. For example, saying “no” can often induce guilt, especially when they are worried their job or reputation might be at risk. So when talking to your team about a task, tell them, “I’d like you to take it on, but if it is too much, it’s okay if you say no.” Highlight that they shouldn’t feel guilty about this and that saying no is an essential time-management skill to prevent them from being perpetually overcommitted and stressed. 
When your team feels they have the support of their leader and the ability to say no if they think they cannot commit to something, they will be a lot happier. Flexibility is an attractive quality to many employees, especially with today’s modern mindset prioritizes work-life balance. Additionally, employees are less likely to fall sick with decreased stress levels.


  • Dr. Tomi Mitchell

    M.D | Leadership Coach| Wellness & Productivity Coach

    Dr. Tomi Mitchell Holistic Wellness Strategies

    Dr. Tomi Mitchell, MD, empowers executives, lawyers, doctors, business owners, and other leaders to eliminate burnout and increase workplace productivity and relationships.  She uses her three-step framework, Embrace, Evaluate & Energize, to empower her clients to have clarity. 

    As a public speaker and trainer, she brings energy to the crowd, captures their attention, and gives them clear, actionable steps to apply immediately to their life. Dr. Tomi Mitchell believes in getting to the root causes of life's challenges, instead of taking a temporary BandAid approach to life. She is a writer, with a book coming out in Summer 2023. She is also the host of The Mental Health & Wellness Show.  To learn more about her framework, check out the following link: Learn More.