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International Journal of Hospitality Management 29 (2010) 720–728

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International Journal of Hospitality Management journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/ijhosman

Does workplace fun matter? Developing a useable typology of workplace fun in a qualitative study
Simon C.H. Chan ∗
Department of Management and Marketing, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hung Hom, Kowloon, Hong Kong

a r t i c l e
Keywords: Workplace fun Useable typology Qualitative study Hospitality industry

i n f o

a b s t r a c t
A fun work environment is a positive atmosphere for organizations to attract and retain employees. This study identifies the significant factors of workplace fun and develops a useable typology of workplace fun activities in the hospitality industry. A qualitative case study with grounded theory approach was used by conducting interviews with ten hotel human resource (HR) practitioners in the People’s Republic of China. The results identified four “S”s of workplace fun factors, namely: (1) Staff-oriented workplace fun, (2) Supervisor-oriented workplace fun, (3) Social-oriented workplace fun, and (4) Strategy-oriented workplace fun. This study provides a roadmap to guide future hospitality management research in workplace fun domain. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction As the jargon goes, “Happy Employees Produce Happy Customers.” (Wong and Ko, 2009, p. 196) There is a great challenge for organizations to attract and retain employees, to encourage employee well-being, and for employees to have fun on their job in the hospitality industry (Yu, 1999). Given the long working hours, shift work schedule, and handling complaints from troublesome customers (Hsieh et al., 2004), it is essential for researchers to know how employees feel at work, what they want to achieve from work, and whether they are satisfied with their work (Lam et al., 2001). Organizations should pay attention and express appreciation to their employees (Weinstein, 1996). Excellent employees are the most significant resource to provide excellent operations and services within the hospitality industry (Enz and Siguaw, 2000). In this context, it is a challenge for the management to motivate and encourage employee well-being. Employee well-being has been developed in the tourism and hospitality literature over the last decade (Fulford, 2005; Tepeci and Bartlett, 2002). Empirical studies have started to investigate the challenge for organizations to attract and motivate employees to remain on the job (Kim et al., 2005; Yu, 1999). Researchers have increasingly considered the impact of quality of work life (QWL) on employee behavioral outcomes (Karatepe et al., 2006; Salazar et al., 2006). More recently, Wong and Ko (2009) explored the perception of work-life balance issues among hotel employees. Kandasamy

∗ Tel.: +852 3400 3643; fax: +852 2765 0611. E-mail address: mssimon@polyu.edu.hk. 0278-4319/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.ijhm.2010.03.001

and Ancheri (2009) have further identified QWL dimensions in the working environment, such as job characteristics, person-job fit, and company image. Quality of work-life balance can promote retention and enhance productivity of hotel employees (Evans and Vernon, 2007). Employees have their expectations on quality of work life when they work in organizations. In spite of such findings, no published studies have yet examined the management work practices, such as workplace fun, in the hospitality industry (Karl et al., 2005). Several studies have highlighted the impacts of workplace fun on employee well-being, customer satisfaction and employee performance (Fleming, 2005; Ramsey, 2001). Lancaster (1999) indicated that workplace fun and work fun culture would result in positive outcomes of employee well-being. When employees experience workplace fun, they enjoy performing their job duties and increase employee job satisfaction and retention (Karl and Peluchette, 2006a,b). Researchers and practitioners have thus suggested that workplace fun has become an integral part of hospitality management (e.g., Karl et al., 2005). In related research, Ford et al. (2003) have identified hundreds of distinct examples of workplace fun activities. They have classified these workplace fun activities into personal events, public celebrations of personal milestones, fun social events, humor/games/competitions, community support activities, humanizing the boss, and other actions. It is interesting to note that there appears to be no typology to delineate the wide range of workplace fun activities. Therefore, the purpose of this study is two-fold: (1) to identify the significant factors of workplace fun; and (2) to develop a useable typology of workplace fun activities in the hospitality industry. This paper presents the results of a qualitative case study approach by interviewing ten hotel human resource practitioners

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in the People’s Republic of China. The cases reflected the experience of the interviewees who have their concerns on workplace fun. Section 2 focuses on a review of workplace fun and employee well-being followed by Section 3 that outlines the research method and the design of the sampling process. Then, a findings section reports the key framework of workplace fun. Finally, conclusions and discussions on the impact of workplace fun are proposed.

2. Literature review 2.1. Workplace fun Studies have started to examine employee perceptions of the formation of a fun work environment (e.g., Karl et al., 2005). Workplace fun is defined as a work environment centred around fun that intentionally encourages, initiates, and supports a variety of enjoyable and pleasurable activities, such as participating in parties, giving awards, playing competitions, and gathering to have fun activities (Karl and Peluchette, 2006b). There is a positive relationship between workplace fun activities and employee productivity and performance (Hemsath, 2001; Putzier, 2001). Ford et al. (2003) described twenty-three different activities that create a fun workplace environment. Results indicated that the three most commonly used activities were casual dress days, employee recognition and rewards, and organization-provided food and refreshments. A funny, humorous, or playful environment can be created by the workplace activities. The workplace fun activities included outings (e.g., company-wide trips), food gatherings (e.g., lunch and dinner for birthdays), and contests (e.g., singing). Workplace fun is “a variety of enjoyable and pleasurable activities that positively impact the attitude and productivity of individuals and groups” or more succinctly “a work environment that makes people smile” (Ford et al., 2003, p. 22). Aldag and Sherony (2001) explained that employees’ early socialization experiences, work history, peer influences, and personality characteristics would influence the experience of having workplace fun. Workplace fun cultures were causally linked to incidences of empowerment (Baughman, 2001). Empowered employees enjoyed their work which encouraged more pleasure in their own responsibilities and roles (Reeves, 2001). Hemsath (2001) expressed that leadership is another important precondition for pleasure at work. Karl and Peluchette (2006a) explained that employees who have experienced workplace fun are more likely to be motivated to work with others, provide better customer service, experience less stress, and are less likely to be absent or leave the organization.

Brown and Yoshioka (2003) stated that employees of different age and gender have different needs and expectations. Older and more tenured employees may be more committed to their jobs simply because job commitment leads to permanence on the job. Hsieh et al. (2004) investigated the perceptions of lodging managers on how work interference with personal life (WIP), personal life interference with work (PIW), work enhancement of personal life (WEP), and personal life enhancement of work (PEW) compared to their work and personal life balance. Wong and Ko (2009) discovered the determinants perceived by employees, such as enough time-off from work, workplace support, allegiance to work, flexibility on work schedule, life orientation, voluntary reduction of contracted hours to cater for personal needs, and upkeep of work and career, to attain better work-life balance. 2.3. Workplace fun and employee well-being Existing literature demonstrated that a positive mood at work would contribute to the prediction of employee well-being (Hies and Judge, 2002, 2004). Fisher (2000) examined the relationship between mood and emotions and job satisfaction in the workplace. Results indicated that the beliefs about the job and experiencing a pleasant mood were associated with job satisfaction. Managers and employees welcome the introduction of workplace fun and agreed that making work fun is important (Newstrom, 2002). Lam et al. (2001) examined the impact of demographic characteristics, in terms of age, length of service, marital status, and educational level on job satisfaction. Employees with a higher level of satisfaction are more likely to lead to employee retention. Gill (2008) found that employees with a higher level of trust have higher levels of job satisfaction in the hospitality industry. Findings also indicated that job satisfaction has an indirect effect on turnover intentions. A workplace fun environment has a positive impact on employee attitudes, such as organizational commitment and perceived organizational support, which eventually help to reduce the intention to leave in the hospitality sector (Cho et al., 2009). The exchange of humor or having fun at work has been shown to reduce conflict, increase creativity, improve communication, and enhance employee retention. Studies have supported that the positive feelings associated with workplace fun influence employee commitment, citizenship behavior, and turnover (Karl and Peluchette, 2006a, 2006b). Karl and Peluchette (2006a) examined health care workers’ attitudes toward workplace fun and the relationship with their emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction. Findings indicated that the negative relationship between emotional exhaustion and job satisfaction was significantly lower for health care workers when they experienced greater levels of workplace fun. Karl and Peluchette (2006b) further examined the relationships between workplace fun and employee satisfaction. The relationship between workplace fun and job satisfaction was greater for employees who placed a high value on workplace fun. 2.4. Typology of workplace fun Based on the literature and rationality of the relationship between workplace fun and employee well-being, a usable typology of workplace fun is important and needed. First, research on the application of workplace fun is significantly increasing in the existing literature (Ford et al., 2003; Karl et al., 2005; Karl and Peluchette, 2006a,b), a usable typology of workplace fun provides a summary of workplace fun activities in the hospitality management. Although this review cannot claim to be exhaustive, it does provide reasonable implications and shows evidence of research on this subject. Second, a useable typology of workplace fun can serve as a guide for developing and testing hypotheses in future research. Researchers

2.2. Employee well-being Empirical studies on employee well-being have been extensively examined in the hospitality industry, especially job satisfaction (Kim et al., 2005). Job satisfaction refers to an employee feeling good or denoting a positive attitude on their job values (Rogers et al., 1994). It is a function of the perceived relationship between employees’ expectations and the importance they attribute to it. Employees feel happy and are satisfied with their work as a meaningful task (Testa, 1999). Graham and Messner (1998) established the most important factors which are favorable to employee job satisfaction. The top favorable factors are challenging work, reasonable rewards, compassionate working conditions and encouraging colleagues. Employees’ needs are satisfied when rewards from the organization such as pay increase, promotion, personal growth, and challenging work are meeting or exceeding their expectations (Locke, 1983).

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can use the typology to identify the impact of management practices from different sources identified on each of the workplace fun activities. Third, another interesting avenue of research is in quantifying the activities of workplace fun on enhancing employee well-being. A recent and similar stream of hospitality management literature has begun to investigate the hotel employees’ perception on quality of work life (Kandasamy and Ancheri, 2009), stress and job satisfaction (Kim et al., 2009), and work-life balance (Wong and Ko, 2009). This appears to be the area that holds substantial benefits and calls for extensive investigation. In sum, a detailed synthesis of the literature enables this study to develop a useable typology of workplace fun activities. 3. Research method The aim of this study is to identify the significant factors of workplace fun and develop a useable typology of workplace fun activities in the hospitality industry. In order to conduct a more thorough understanding of workplace fun, a grounded theory approach is essential to gather the data. Grounded theory provides that “the interpretations and perceptions of actors on their own and others’ actions become incorporated into researchers’ interpretations” (Locke, 2001, p. 10). It is especially appropriate to investigate the processes of a management practice (Locke, 2001). The contemporary and exploratory nature of workplace fun favors the qualitative approach (Eisenhardt, 1989; Ryan et al., 1992). The qualitative study captures the reality in substantial detail, and is particularly powerful when a focus on contemporary events is needed which helps to understand complex social phenomena (Creswell, 2003; Yin, 2003). It allows researchers to document knowledge and the experiences of industry practitioners (Oronsky and Chathoth, 2007). 3.1. Research design This study interviewed ten hotel human resource practitioners as the sample for a qualitative field study (Eisenhardt, 1989). The ten qualitative cases were conducted over a period of 3 months. 3.2. The sampling process There were three main stages for the sampling process and obtaining case studies for this study, as shown in Fig. 1. Stage 1. A convenience sampling procedure was used by the researcher’s personal connections in stage 1. The interview protocol was developed largely based on participants’ advices and views on workplace fun and its impact. After refining and validating the research interview instrument, a pre-test was conducted. The researcher has modified the interview protocol based on the three hotel general managers’ and academic experts’ concerns and observations. They provided critical feedback with respect to its validity, wording and clarity. Stage 2. A focus group was interviewed to identify the significant factors of workplace fun in stage 2. The focus group allows researchers to concentrate on a single topic in depth, and gain a better understanding of the participants (Kandasamy and Ancheri, 2009). Judgement sampling was used to select the most appropriate participants based on the nature of the research study (Yin, 2003). The researcher has participated in discussions on the concept and definition of workplace fun. Open discussion helps to bring forward new ideas that are important to the topic (Bryman and Bell, 2003; Kandasamy and Ancheri, 2009). The focus group meeting lasted for an hour. Stage 3. Interviews with ten hotel human resource practitioners were conducted in stage 3. The ten interviews provided an opportunity for detailed investigation of each interviewee’s personal

Fig. 1. The sampling process.

opinions (Creswell, 2003). The researchers labelled the participants as Interviewee A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, and J. The first in-depth interview and collection of internal archive material were conducted. A protocol with the definition of workplace fun and its impact was sent to the respondents allowing them time to consider and reflect on the issue. The interviewees were asked a set of open-ended question about their opinions on workplace fun. Three main questions were asked: (i) “Do you think that workplace fun is important to employees in the hospitality industry?”, (ii) “What are the dimensions of workplace fun, and please provide examples of relevant activities?”, and (iii) “What is the main impact of workplace fun in the hospitality industry?” During the interviews, extensive notes and relevant speech marks were written down literally (Strauss and Corbin, 1990). The interviewees also have the opportunity to comment openly on issues of workplace fun other than those pre-set openended questions. There were 5 male and 5 female interviewees and their working experience varied from 2 to 12 years, with the average being 5.1 years. Grounded theory approach which employs indicative reasoning to identify the emergent theme was used for data analysis (Glaswer and Strauss, 1967). Data analysis consisted of examining their responses with the intent of identifying significant factors of workplace fun. With this approach, the researcher would explore a phenomenon without prior hypotheses to explain the situation (Mehmetoglu and Altinay, 2006). The transcripts of the interviews were recorded to identify the potential categories of workplace fun. The preliminary findings provided a more definitive process for the remaining cases by combining common categories. The conceptual dimension of workplace fun and its impact were then formulated. The setting of data acquisition was placed into categories which were consistent with the nature of the responses (Creswell, 2003). 3.3. Preliminary findings for workplace fun factors by focus group The primary purpose of the focus group is to identify the factors of workplace fun activities and develop a useable typology of

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trips, and singing and performing contests. Organizations can sponsor some friendly competitions among employees to build up a friendly environment, or they can participate in society support and charity activities such as charity fun activities, entertainment shows, and international public events. (4) Strategy-oriented workplace fun. Strategy-oriented workplace fun is defined as the direction and policy of an organization perceived as support to create workplace fun, such as the management practices of outstanding performance, policy of participation program, casual dress days, organizationprovided food and refreshments, and sharing sessions with top management. Organizations can promote workplace fun by the use of family-friendly policies and promote fun at work in organization newsletters and e-mails. 3.4. Case study data analysis The interviewees were required to be informed in management and decision matters. The researcher determines the use of data which provided rich information for analyzing each interview. The “constant comparative analysis method” was used to detect the similarities and differences of case studies (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2002; Yin, 2003). Miles and Huberman, 1984 method for pattern clustering was used to analyze data for ten ad hoc, semi-structured and open-ended interviews.
Fig. 2. The four “S”s workplace fun framework.

4. Workplace fun: a four “S”s framework The ten hotel human resource practitioners were interviewed to identify and develop a typology of workplace fun. The qualitative approach identified a framework for workplace fun. Four “S”s factors were identified, namely: (1) Staff-oriented workplace fun, (2) Supervisor-oriented workplace fun, (3) Social-oriented workplace fun, and (4) Strategy-oriented workplace fun. Table 1 shows the framework of four “S”s factors of workplace fun by ten hotel human resource practitioners. The letters “H”, “M” and “L” indicate the importance of each single workplace fun factor which determines the level of support towards workplace fun. For example(s), high [H] (medium, low [M, L]) importance of workplace fun is defined as the level of support stemming from the perceived high [medium, low] level of recognition and identification of workplace fun. The degree of importance was determined by the researcher, who is well-trained in qualitative research and has domain knowledge in workplace fun. All of these “H”, “M” and “L” levels of support/importance were derived from interviews and the results were further discussed and confirmed with the interviewees. Each of these factors is discussed in the following sections. 4.1. Staff-oriented workplace fun To a large extent, staff-oriented workplace fun is the most useable typology of workplace fun factor. In general, organizations are highly recommended to arrange employee personal events so as to satisfy employees’ needs. The majority of the interviewees (Interviewee A, B, C, D, F, G, H, and J) explained that employees are all welcome to the personal celebrations and events, such as birthday, marriage, and retirement. Interviewee C explained that new employees are impressed by the welcome party, birthday celebration, or even probation events. Interviewee F claimed that extra-activities for employees can foster the workplace fun environment in organizations. The personal activities provide a way for employees to experience workplace fun. Interviewee D said “I think our organization is arranging particularly well personal events, such as birthday party and gifts. Employees are happy and impressed by the workplace fun activities. They are satisfied with

workplace fun and its impact in the hospitality industry. In order to provide a clear idea of workplace fun, the focus group sought to identify examples of activities used in organizations to promote workplace fun. The findings were cataloged into four “S”s of workplace fun factors, namely: (1) Staff-oriented workplace fun, (2) Supervisor-oriented workplace fun, (3) Social-oriented workplace fun, and (4) Strategy-oriented workplace fun, as shown in Fig. 2. These represent the major categories of workplace fun activities, and events with examples that are offered by organizations to encourage and promote workplace fun. (1) Staff-oriented workplace fun. The most frequently cited workplace fun activities are related to staff-oriented workplace fun. Staff-oriented workplace fun is defined as the type of activities and events perceived as fun which create fun work for employees. It includes all personal staff activities or events, such as celebrating birthdays, and anniversaries of employment. Other examples to encourage and allow staff-oriented workplace fun include extra time off, employee appreciation weeks, wellness programs, and flexible work schedules. These varieties of workplace fun activities were all individual-based, inspirational and heart-warming to employees. (2) Supervisor-oriented workplace fun. The second type of workplace fun belonged to the quality of relationship between supervisor and employees. Supervisor-oriented workplace fun is defined as the type of activities and events perceived as fun which are created by employees’ immediate supervisor at work. A better relationship with an immediate supervisor can create a better workplace fun phenomenon. It includes activities such as lunch days with the supervisor, informal gatherings after work, happy hour with the supervisor, etc. (3) Social-oriented workplace fun. Social-oriented workplace fun is defined as the type of activities and events perceived as fun which are created by the social gatherings in organizations, like annual dinner or buffet lunches, social BBQ gatherings, and Christmas parties. Social gathering involves organizationalbased events, like organization picnics, organization-organized

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Interviewee D

H = high levels of workplace fun. M = medium levels of workplace fun. L = low levels of workplace fun.

the excitements and would bring good memories to work.” Interviewee A stated that employees are happy and feel satisfied when they participate in workplace fun activities. Employees are proud to work for their organization. With the growing number of large hotels operated in Mainland China over the past few years, organizations should maintain competitive advantage in terms of human resource. Half of the interviewees (Interviewee A, B, G, H, and J) pointed out that the caring attitude of colleagues would be favorable in an organization. Interviewee B explained “If employees can share joy and make jokes with their colleagues at work, they are more willing to deliver the workplace fun message across the counter. That must be great!” Interviewee H agreed “We believe that staff-oriented workplace fun can foster commitment and job satisfaction to our staff. We must ensure a fair opportunity to all employees irrespective of their grade. Employees will perform better when organizations provide individualized care and consideration.” Employees would like to work for an organization that has potential to grow and provide quality of work life to employee well-being. Some interviewees (Interviewee A, C, D, F, and J) stated that employees are not requesting a high frequency of personal celebration. However, they appreciate the effort of creating a fun-filled working environment. Employees know that they have a tight shift schedule in the hospitality industry, and that a personal event such as a birthday party is not guaranteed. Interviewee J commented that a good management practice would determine employees’ decision on their intention to leave and directly affect their well-being. In contrast, two interviewees (Interviewee E and I) indicated that some of their employees demonstrated that they are more concerned on their compensation package, especially those permanent employees who have served the same hotel group for a long period of time. Permanent employees are more realistic in terms of financial incentives rather than fun work activities. They prefer to have a stable job and work-life balance, rather than new challenge and flexible working style. Interviewee E believed that “We do have some personal activities for employees, but we encouraged the philosophy of customer first and maintain performance standard.” 4.2. Supervisor-oriented workplace fun Supervisor-oriented workplace fun is a critical workplace fun factor. According to four interviewees (Interviewee A, B, F and H), immediate supervisors were the key to having workplace fun. Interviewee B commented that employees are willing to keep a good relationship with their immediate supervisor if they closely worked together. Interviewee F explained that “As employees meet with their immediate supervisors on a daily basis, I do think most employees agree to work with a friendly supervisor in the workplace rather than a harsh one, especially in the service industry.” Interviewee H further commented that “In the hospitality industry, it is a special experience for employees to stay and work with their immediate supervisor intensively. They enjoy the time to work and learn a great deal from their immediate supervisor.” There is a wide array of things that organizations could do to create workplace fun. Many of the interviewees (Interviewee B, C, D, E, F and J) stated that their employees have received opportunities for internal informal gatherings and meetings with immediate supervisors. Employees are able to keep track of their immediate supervisors who are eager to work in a cooperative environment. Interviewee A stated that employees are equipped with frontline customer service skills and professional knowledge by their immediate supervisor. They also attended several coaching workshops and monthly meetings held by immediate supervisors to share their experiences. Interviewee H mentioned that “We have a comprehensive on-the-job training schedule and a structured mentoring scheme for our staff. We concentrate on strengthening our staff

Interviewee J Interviewee I Interviewee H Interviewee G Interviewee F Interviewee E Interviewee C Interviewee B Table 1 Framework of four “S”s factors of workplace fun. Interviewee A Factors

Workplace fun Staff-oriented Supervisor-oriented Social-oriented Strategy-oriented

H H H H

H H M L

H M H L

H L H H

M L H M

H H M H

H M L M

H H H L

L L H H

H M H H

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development by building a good supervisor–subordinate relationship.” A good immediate supervisor would provide clear direction and share positive work attitudes with employees. However, in some exceptional cases, employees were strongly dissatisfied with their supervisors and their management style (Interviewee D, E, I). Interviewee D further commented that “Although my immediate supervisor has good leadership skills, employees could not accept his/her bad temper which will directly affect job satisfaction.” Interviewee I claimed “Personally, it is because I have been working here for over 5 years. Sometimes, they will refuse an immediate supervisor order and work to rules.” Nevertheless, Interviewee E indicated that “They have bad feeling because they were dissatisfied with the leadership style of their immediate supervisor. Most of the time, they will not communicate with each other for over a week. They only limit their communication and share messages by the Intranet.” Interviewee I stated that the most irritating issue is the poor relationship with his/her immediate supervisor. Employees were close to burnout due to the unfriendly relationship with their immediate supervisors. They work for long hours and undertake over-time work every week yet their immediate supervisors do not appreciate their great effort. 4.3. Social-oriented workplace fun Seven interviewees (Interviewee A, C, D, E, H, I, J) reported that employees like to participate and join in social activities organized by organizations, such as company picnics, buffet lunches, social BBQ gatherings, and parties. Interviewee A explained that “Employees are satisfied with the social gathering, such as annual dinner, Christmas party, Chinese New Year party. Employees enjoy these activities very much and will bring those happy memories to the workplace.” Half of the interviewees (Interviewee C, D, E, H, J) pointed out that informal social gatherings should enhance the culture of workplace fun. Interviewee C claimed that the organization often provides opportunities for public gathering among employees at all levels, such as lunch gathering and festival event. Employees will be more committed and experience job satisfaction when associated with good colleagues. Interviewee D stated that “We provide different types of social events to support a series of workplace fun activities for employees. This enables us to retain a high level of social reputation and create a fun working environment for all our staff.” Half of the interviewees (Interviewee A, D, E, I, J) agreed that employees should participate in social projects like charity fun activities, entertainment shows, and international public events that are important. Interviewee A commented “My organization always participates in public events, such as charity fund. Employees can sense the contribution of our organization and actively participate in the activities.” Two interviewees stated that one advantage of social activities is to promote the social responsibility of organizations, and raises the social awareness of employees. Another advantage is to promote the concept of workplace fun rather than a work-oriented culture. Employees are highly encouraged to respond to the needs of society (Interviewee I). Interviewee D stated that “Frontline employees provide excellent services to our customers. However, in some cases, our customers will make a complaint about trivial things to management which directly affect the morale of our team. Employees social gathering is a way to have work-life balance.” With a set of shared values and expectations of workplace fun, employees can generate a greater sense of belonging. Employees from different departments may not have opportunities to work together. Social activities will create a common ground to enable employees to experience workplace fun. Interviewee H commented “Providing a good working condition to employees is a must. Even

more, if we could provide some extra-activities and caring services, all employees would be highly appreciative and satisfied at working here”. Interviewee F received some comments from employees and expressed “One of our staff had worked for the hotel group over 8 years in the same position. There is no benefit provided and no career advancement too. The only motive is the friendship and workplace fun here.” Interviewee I further stated that, “The social gathering is good for personal development within groups, departments, and even organizations. We can fully utilize the opportunity to get well-known by others.” Social gathering can provide a platform for better relationships within the work environment. Interviewee D indicated “I know that our employees love their work. We provide high-quality service to our customers. We need high formations of teamwork. Sometimes, playing games is one of the ways to improve job satisfaction.” Other comments (Interviewee B, F) included, “With the staff gathering in organizations, employees no longer only focus on the work task. Employees can enjoy the benefits of work balanced with social gathering.” (Interviewee B). Interviewee F commented, in a rapidly changing business environment, employees must suffer from great stress. Workplace fun can help by providing a customtailored culture norm in a social gathering. From the management point of view, social gathering increases the social cohesiveness within the work group and extends connections within organizations. However, one interviewee mentioned that “We are unhappy that our management did not provide any recreation activities for us during break time or after work. It is important for them to release their stress and enjoy themselves at work” (Interviewee G). 4.4. Strategy-oriented workplace fun Strategy-oriented workplace fun includes the guidelines and policies of an organization perceived as fun which create a fun work environment. Interviewee F stated that “Competition between hotels is becoming keener, and organizations would propose different management practices to attract, retain, and motivate employees to stay in the workplace. To do this, organizations must keep our pool of talent with workplace fun.” Interviewee A mentioned that “We do so by implementing a friendly or workplace fun policy in different aspects of their work.” The workplace fun policy serves to create harmony and cultivate a great sense of belonging to the organization. The workplace fun strategy encourages employees to express their feelings by the open-door policy. Interviewee J recommended that the new implementation of work-life issues and design of the job task reflect an incentive for enjoyment at work. This strategy provides employees the pleasure to experience fun. Interviewee I mentioned that the management team has adopted an open-door approach to invite employee opinions and feedback. Organizations support reviews of family-friendly work practices through informal meetings and daily communication. The ultimate goal of this policy is to help our staff enhance their well-being. Some interviewees (Interviewee D, E, F, G) commented that our members are the key assets of the hotel industry. The mission is to create a fun workplace which will drive us towards achieving the organization goal. Interviewee G also claimed that “The work practices in our hotel are favorable to our employees. Our hotel group provides superior benefits and shares the workplace fun idea with employees. Employees are happy with the work practices.” Seven interviewees (Interviewee A, D, E, F, G, I, J) agreed that sponsoring friendly competitions among employees as organization policy is important for promoting workplace fun. Interviewee D recalled that workplace fun management is all about identifying employee’s positive potential and placing them in an environment where they can satisfy their work happily, while providing excel-

726 Table 2 Typology of four “S”s workplace fun factors. Type of workplace fun factor Staff-oriented

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Excerpts of data • “Employees are happy and feel satisfied when they participate in workplace fun activities. Employees are proud to work for their organization.” (Interviewee A) • “If employees can share joy and make jokes with their colleagues at work, they are more willing to deliver the workplace fun message across the counter. That must be great!” (Interviewee B) • “New employees are impressed by the welcome party, birthday celebration, or even probation events.” (Interviewee C) • “I think our organization is arranging particularly well personal events, such as birthday party and gifts. Employees are happy and impressed by the workplace fun activities. They are satisfied with the excitements and would bring good memories to work.” (Interviewee D) • “We do have some personal activities for employees, but we encouraged the philosophy of customer first and maintain performance standard.” (Interviewee E) • “Extra-activities for employees can foster the workplace fun environment in organizations.” (Interviewee F) • “Employees are all welcome to the personal celebrations and events, such as birthday, marriage, and retirement.” (Interviewee G) • “We must ensure a fair opportunity to all employees irrespective of their grade. Employees will perform better when organizations provide individualized care and consideration.” (Interviewee H) • “The caring attitude of colleagues would be favorable in an organization. A good management practice would determine employees’ decision on their intention to leave and directly affect their well-being.” (Interviewee J) • “Employees are equipped with frontline customer service skills and professional knowledge by their immediate supervisor. They also attended several coaching workshops and monthly meetings held by immediate supervisors to share their experiences.” (Interviewee A) • “Employees are willing to keep a good relationship with their immediate supervisor if they closely worked together.” (Interviewee B) • “Employees have received opportunities for internal informal gatherings and meetings with immediate supervisors. Employees are able to keep track of their immediate supervisors who are eager to work in a cooperative environment.”(Interviewee C) • “Although my immediate supervisor has good leadership skills, employees could not accept his/her bad temper which will directly affect job satisfaction.” (Interviewee D) • “They have bad feeling because they were dissatisfied with the leadership style of their immediate supervisor. Most of the time, they will not communicate with each other for over a week. They only limit their communication and share messages by the Intranet.” (Interviewee E) • “As employees meet with their immediate supervisors on a daily basis, I do think most employees agree to work with a friendly supervisor in the workplace rather than a harsh one, especially in the service industry.” (Interviewee F) • “In the hospitality industry, it is a special experience for employees to stay and work with their immediate supervisor intensively. They enjoy the time to work and learn a great deal from their immediate supervisor.” (Interviewee H) • “We have a comprehensive on-the-job training schedule and a structured mentoring scheme for our staff. We concentrate on strengthening our staff development by building a good supervisor-subordinate relationship.” (Interviewee H) • “Personally, it is because I have been working here for over 5 years. Sometimes, they will refuse an immediate supervisor order and work to rules.” (Interviewee I) • “Employees are satisfied with the social gathering, such as annual dinner, Christmas party, Chinese New Year party. Employees enjoy these activities very much and will bring those happy memories to the workplace.” (Interviewee A) • “My organization always participates in public events, such as charity fund. Employees can sense the contribution of our organization and actively participate in the activities.” (Interviewee A) • “With the staff gathering in organizations, employees no longer only focus on the work task. Employees can enjoy the benefits of work balanced with social gathering.” (Interviewee B) • “The organization often provides opportunities for public gathering among employees at all levels, such as lunch gathering and festival event. Employees will be more committed and experience job satisfaction when associated with good colleagues.” (Interviewee C) • “We provide different types of social events to support a series of workplace fun activities for employees. This enables us to retain a high level of social reputation and create a fun working environment for all our staff.” (Interviewee D) • “Frontline employees provide excellent services to our customers. However, in some cases, our customers will make a complaint about trivial things to management which directly affect the morale of our team. Employees social gathering is a way to have work-life balance.” (Interviewee D) • “I know that our employees love their work. We provide high-quality service to our customers. We need high formations of teamwork. Sometimes, playing games is one of the ways to improve job satisfaction.” (Interviewee D) • “Employees should participate in social projects like charity fun activities, entertainment shows, and international public events that are important.” (Interviewee E) • “Informal social gatherings should enhance the culture of workplace fun.” (Interviewee F) • “One of our staff had worked for the hotel group over eight years in the same position. There is no benefit provided and no career advancement too. The only motive is the friendship and workplace fun here.” (Interviewee F) • “From the management point of view, social gathering increases the social cohesiveness within the work group and extends connections within organizations.” (Interviewee F) • “We are unhappy that our management did not provide any recreation activities for us during break time or after work. It is important for them to release their stress and enjoy themselves at work.” (Interviewee G) • “Providing a good working condition to employees is a must. Even more, if we could provide some extra-activities and caring services, all employees would be highly appreciative and satisfied at working here.” (Interviewee H) • “One advantage of social activities is to promote the social responsibility of organizations, and raises the social awareness of employees. Another advantage is to promote the concept of workplace fun rather than a work-oriented culture. Employees are highly encouraged to respond to the needs of society.” (Interviewee I) • “The social gathering is good for personal development within groups, departments, and even organizations. We can fully utilize the opportunity to get well-known by others.” (Interviewee I) • “Employees like to participate and join in social activities organized by organizations, such as company picnics, buffet lunches, social BBQ gatherings, and parties.” (Interviewee J) • “We do so by implementing a friendly or workplace fun policy in different aspects of their work.” (Interviewee A) • “Competition between hotels is becoming keener, and organizations would propose different management practices to attract, retain, and motivate employees to stay in the workplace. To do this, organizations must keep our pool of talent with workplace fun.” (Interviewee B) • “Workplace fun management is all about identifying employee’s positive potential and placing them in an environment where they can satisfy their work happily, while providing excellent performances to the organization.” (Interviewee D)

Supervisor-oriented

Social-oriented

Strategy-oriented

S.C.H. Chan / International Journal of Hospitality Management 29 (2010) 720–728 Table 2 (Continued ) Type of workplace fun factor Excerpts of data

727

• “Competition between hotels is becoming keener, and organizations would propose different management practices to attract, retain, and motivate employees to stay in the workplace. To do this, organizations must keep our pool of talent with workplace fun.” (Interviewee F) • “The recognition and respect policies are important especially for employees who have direct contacts with service customers.” (Interviewee F) • “The work practices in our hotel are favorable to our employees. Our hotel group provides superior benefits and shares the workplace fun idea with employees. Employees are happy with the work practices.” (Interviewee G) • “Employees like a challenging job, but there are no fair promotion opportunities even if they have been working here for a long period of time. We always make an announcement of new HR practices to engage staff via e-mail and the notice board. Employees are keen to participate in the implementation of family-friendly policies.” (Interviewee G) • “The management team has adopted an open-door approach to invite employee opinions and feedback. Organizations support reviews of family-friendly work practices through informal meetings and daily communication.” (Interviewee I) • “The new implementation of work-life issues and design of the job task reflect an incentive for enjoyment at work. This strategy provides employees the pleasure to experience fun.” (Interviewee J) • “With the implementation of the workplace fun policy, the negative perception of heavy workload may reduce. To be frank, we are ready to work longer hours in the peak season. The main motivation is whether our hotel group will keep us going forward.” (Interviewee J)

lent performances to the organization. Furthermore, organizations must recognize employees’ contributions. Interviewee F stated that the recognition and respect policies are important especially for employees who have direct contacts with service customers. Interviewee G stated that “Employees like a challenging job, but there are no fair promotion opportunities even if they have been working here for a long period of time. We always make an announcement of new HR practices to engage staff via e-mail and the notice board. Employees are keen to participate in the implementation of family-friendly policies.” “Definitely, our staff can experience a sense of fulfilment. Our customers even praise our enjoyment of work” (Interviewee D). At last, Interviewee J commented “With the implementation of the workplace fun policy, the negative perception of heavy workload may reduce. To be frank, we are ready to work longer hours in the peak season. The main motivation is whether our hotel group will keep us going forward.” Table 2 summarizes the typology of the four “S”s workplace fun factors among the ten interviewees. 5. Conclusion and discussion This study has identified and developed a useable typology of workplace fun activities. The four “S”s factors are namely: (1) Stafforiented workplace fun, (2) Supervisor-oriented workplace fun, (3) Social-oriented workplace fun, and (4) Strategy-oriented workplace fun. In general, interviewees agreed that hotel employees could benefit from the workplace fun environment. Organizations have termed workplace fun culture as joy, happiness, surprise, and enjoyment in the employment relationship. Since hospitality organizations are mainly involved in direct interaction with customers, employees prefer to work in a comfortable work environment. The use of fun workplace activities helps employees be comfortable with their work. Workplace fun can increase the level of employee well-being by its application. By providing access to uniform highquality service, workplace fun is a powerful tool for the work environment. Management can introduce a fun work environment to employees that allows them to experience a great difference at work. This study contributes to the existing hospitality literature by providing evidence through a qualitative case study with grounded theory approach to support the concept of workplace fun and its impact. The findings from the ten hotel human resource practitioners provide a significant foundation to examine the importance of a fun work environment. This study re-visits the traditional saying from “work at the job; play at your home” to “enjoy and play at work”. A fun work environment will eventually increase the levels of enthusiasm, satisfaction, creativity, and communications among employees (Ford et al., 2004). Moreover, management

should be aware of the working environment so that they can create workplace fun guidelines to enhance employee well-being and retention. A pleasant working environment will more likely inspire employees and attract and retain them in organizations. Workplace fun activities may be treated as the welfare of employees. For example, staff celebration and personal development are recommended which employees can enjoy and maintain. It is important to respect the fun work environment by allowing staff to work more closely with their immediate supervisors, and participate in social gathering while they are working in the hospitality industry. Hospitality professionals should have clear work rules and regulations to support workplace fun activities. Although different hotels may have different management practices, several friendly-family policies or workplace fun activities should be supported to promote the quality of the work-life balance (Kandasamy and Ancheri, 2009). This study has several limitations. First, the experiences of ten hotel human resource practitioners formed the primary source of data for the identification of the significant workplace fun factors. This study only interviewed ten human resource practitioners in the hospitality industry. Future research should include a broader representation of another industry on the perceptions of workplace fun. The type of organization may also make a difference in workplace fun. Second, as workplace fun is a relatively new concept, some interviewees might have slightly different interpretations of workplace fun. Much of the evidence was collected using interviews and was then interpreted by a researcher. The data analysis may have been influenced by the subjectivity of the researcher. Future research should examine the typology and impact of workplace fun by a quantitative approach. Third, employees may have different views about the workplace fun factors. It would be beneficial to include all levels of employees such as management, supervisory and operational (Wong and Pang, 2003). A longitudinal study on workplace fun among employees will be important to provide insights for the hospitality industry. To conclude, this study devises a better understanding on the identification of workplace fun activities. Despite the importance of workplace fun, this is the first study to classify and develop a useable typology of workplace fun activities. This typology better explains the four “S”s factors of workplace fun activities into (1) Staff-oriented workplace fun, (2) Supervisor-oriented workplace fun, (3) Social-oriented workplace fun, and (4) Strategy-oriented workplace fun. With respect to the findings, more future research can be conducted in the workplace fun domain. As such, the useable typology of workplace fun serves as a roadmap of hospitality management research for both academics and practitioners. This study would be valuable to determine the typology of workplace fun and provides insight for professionals in the hospitality industry.

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