Want to Be Happier at Work? Have Some Fun

Bibi Deitz

For most of us, work isn’t usually synonymous with playfulness or kid-like wonder. But there’s plenty of evidence that we collectively need something less-serious to perk up our workdays. Udemy Business reports that some 43% of employees are bored at work, and psychologists tout downtime as essential for brain health.

Further, some research supports that focusing on fun over happiness in general can make people, in fact, feel happier. This might come in the form of small moments of joy during our daily routines, like savoring a snack or exchanging GIFs with an office BFF. Taken one step further, “kidulting”—tapping into childlike nostalgia and joy—can incite a mood and creativity boost that spills over into the rest of our work.

Next time you or your team are feeling stuck in the day-to-day, try a nostalgic, just-for-fun activity to spark some kid-like joy. Beyond a benefit of immediate lightheartedness, your current work challenges may just feel a bit lighter, too. Start with one of the easy-to-execute ideas below, then let your imagination run free.

Photo: Ketut Subiyanto

Make a Retro Playlist

One of the quickest routes to reliving your past in the best way: Cue up a playlist with all your favorite hits of yesterday. Blondie, Modest Mouse, old-school Mariah… choose your own adventure! Throw on the top tracks you used to listen to while flopped on your bed in high school and rock out while you tick off your to-do list. Turn up the fun as a team by soliciting songs for a shared throwbacks-themed playlist.

Bake Some Childhood Treats

For delicious-smelling cheer, pull out a favorite family recipe and get baking. (Extra points for bakes with sprinkles, marshmallows, or other kid-approved elements.) You’ll be the star of the office when you bring your creations in to share the next morning.

If you’re WFH, snacking on homemade goods is pretty much guaranteed to put a sweet pep in your step. Whether you grew up craving cinnamon rolls, chocolate chip cookies, or pumpkin bread, recreating the recipes of your past is a surefire way to get some nostalgia kicking.

Organize a Casual Group Craft

If you have kids or friends who do, you’ve probably seen some colorful finger painting, creative stick figures, and abstract cut-and-paste artwork that shines despite its lack of technical skill. Sure, fondness for the mini artist who made it comes into play, but the idea of making something hands-on without pressure for it to be “good” or have a “point” can feel especially freeing as an adult.

Embrace a beginner’s mindset and try a simple, low-barrier craft like painting pottery, building a terrarium, or making candles (easy with a kit) with your colleagues. See if your team budget will cover the cost of supplies, or if leadership is willing to bring on a pro to lead the group.

Plan a Post-Work Adventure

Remember when you were a kid and your parents told you they’d pick you up at school and take you somewhere special? Whatever the destination, it made the school day fly by with excitement. Recreate the experience by planning something purely fun (even silly!) after work.

Play unapologetically: Set a date to go ice skating, see a cheesy movie—with popcorn, candy, and soda, of course—or rally your team to go to an arcade-themed bar or another unexpected activity.

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