It was finally shut down day. After 10 days straight of production on graveyard, it was over and the only thing standing between me and some much needed sleep and family time was the morning production meeting. This rotation, I would be in the first group out the door, smiling and waving on my way out the door to those who still had to deal with finishing the plant shut down. As the meeting ended and handed the operation off to day shift it was full speed out the door when my boss uttered those words you don’t want to hear, stay back a minute. Ugh! I was so close. The lead superintendent, myself and our boss were the only ones left when he said. “Your crew produced some exceptional numbers this rotation and after last night, really put us in excellent position for a smooth shutdown. You did a great job this shift.” I smiled, thanked him for the complement, and then added, and they had fun doing it! As soon as the word fun left my mouth the lead superintendent exploded with, “There it goes again! What is all this fun nonsense? They’re not paid to have fun, they’re paid to do a job!”
For the record, I never did like this man at all, ever. He was old school, he told off color jokes, he bullied workers, he was mean just for the sake of being mean. He was very disruptive to the whole operation at times but had been with the company for a long time and knew where all the skeletons were buried which worked to his benefit, that is until we were bought out by another company. He didn’t last long, but I digress. The lead continued, “I heard you also bought them pizza last night?” Yes, I did, they earned it and turned to our boss and said, do you have a problem with our production numbers and pizza? He smiled back, put his feet up on his desk and answered, “Have a great shutdown and have some fun, you earned it.”
There is nothing wrong with having fun at work. The manufacturing and food processing industries don’t have to be depressing and stifling. If your employees really enjoy not only what they are doing, but are also appreciated for what they contribute within a positive environment, confidence in themselves grows and safety and productivity soars. You should know that fun doesn’t mean having forklift races or burning rubber in the warehouse but it does mean you can have a yearly forklift rodeo to recognize and reward the safest operators in your facility. Fun can take the form of handing employees a token each time they’re observed doing a safe act or wearing all their proper PPE. Workers can later redeem the tokens collected for snacks, lunch or favorite team’s hat or shirts. Fun doesn’t involve micromanaging staff to the point where no one cares anymore about what’s going on but you can have fun listening to employee ideas, improved productivity suggestions and safety improvement recommendations. Fun can also include a monthly potluck meal and recognition of workers for their contributions on all shifts. These are just a few simple ideas to keep fun in your workplace. What are some things you do?
Never keep quiet about safety, for the life you save may be your own.