Having fun is serious business

Lowri Dowthwaite is being totally serious when she says she wants everyone to play more at work.

The lecturer in psychological interventions at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) helps businesses and organisations across the county tackle the issue of workplace wellbeing.

And creating the fun-factor is an important part of her approach to making people’s working lives better. She says simply that being funny and having a laugh makes us all smarter.

Lowri explains: “The more you can have fun and play at work, the more creative you become and in turn the more productive you are.

“We need to move away from the idea that work should be serious and that if you are not serious you are not working hard and not doing a good job.”

Workplace wellbeing is a serious issue. In the UK it is estimated that stress and unhappiness at work costs the economy £26bn each year.

As Lowri says, creating happier workforces is vital to ensure businesses flourish.

She points to studies showing that happy people make better employees and have a positive impact on their organisations.

Happy teams experience less incidence of ill-health and absenteeism, are more resilient, more productive, better at problem solving, have superior customer service and are ultimately more profitable and successful.

Surveys of workplace wellbeing have also found that companies with highly-engaged employees significantly outperform their competitors. A lot of Lowri’s work is carried out with business leaders on creating a more positive workplace culture.

She says: “We still have a bit of a hangover from our industrial past that work should be hard and that if we are not showing stress we’re not working hard enough.

“Stress has historically been seen as something positive, a sign that they’re being more productive. That’s something we really have to get away from.

“The fact is that stress inhibits our ability to problem solve and makes us less flexible in the way we work.

“And studies of positive organisations suggest the more fun we have at work the more productive we are, and the less likely we are to suffer burn-out.”

Lowri is a lecturer in psychological interventions at UCLan and a leading speaker in the field of happiness and positive psychology. Her work has led to her being labelled in the media as “Mrs Happy”.

She says: “Companies need to talk to their workers and listen to them. Open conversations with staff can make a big difference when it comes to creating the right culture.

“It is finding out how people would like to enjoy their work more. And that’s not just about talking to people who aren’t happy – it’s about talking to those who are and finding out what makes them enjoy coming to work so much.”

The world of work is changing and Lowri says that has to be reflected in the way people are managed. She talks about the rise in ‘job crafting’ where people’s work is co-created with their managers – doing away with the traditional job description and allowing workers to focus on the things they are good at and enjoy.

Lowri explains: “If people are given the freedom to define their own role within the boundaries of the organisation, they are genuinely a lot happier in that role.”

To find out more about the work that Lowri does email or call Ldowthwaite1@uclan.ac.uk 01772 893703.

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