Merry KISSmas! …and More Ways to Bring Radical Self-EnFUNment to the Workplace

It doesn't get much merrier than this
It doesn't get much merrier than this

Here at BMHQ, the year is winding down and we have only a few short hours until we lock the doors and say goodbye to 2009. I’m spending my final moments archiving last year’s files…including all of the pictures we took at and around the office last year. Looking back, it was a momentous one. Full of great achievements as well as some setbacks, enormous gains and sad losses. But one thing is for certain, no matter the pain or the strife, the thing that makes any day bearable is that we ALWAYS remember to have fun! Some people say “Well of COURSE it’s fun, you work for Burning Man!” but let me tell you, doing budgets and making copies and having meetings is no different here than any office. Granted, once in a long while a marching band may sneak attack us during an office staff meeting, but more importantly, what we DO have here are open minds, open arms, and a readiness to have fun. Those are things that only come with more practice! Below are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past couple years that can be used in any workplace to bring at least a smile and certainly some fun to any day.

1. Try to make the fun something everyone can enjoy

Everyone's cookie cutters are welcome, here!
Everyone's cookie cutters are welcome, here!

Well, we didn’t want to pick any religious holiday in particular, so when Frog and I were talking about what we should do on December 22nd, which we knew would be a slow day at the office, we decided on a religion just about everyone could agree to….Rock & Roll! We called it Merry KISSmas Tuesday, and encouraged everyone to dress as the KISS army of elves and stop by the kitchen where we were making cookies. Frog was awesome and made the sugar cookie batter (vegan, so everyone could have some) the night before, so all we had to do was show up as our fabulous selves and start rollin’ in the dough! Err…rollin’ OUT the dough.

YES, I decided to be Peter Criss and no one forced me to, why does everybody keep asking that? Point is, we took an hour or so mid-day to wear platform boots, paint our faces, and try to salvage the feet that kept breaking off the clown cookies. In short, it was a success.

2. Have your fun in a timely fashion

1-hour dance party

A workplace is a workplace and taking an entire day to plan and execute an impromptu dress-up day or event is most often frowned upon by your superiors. However, with a little planning even extravagant-seeming events can take just a short time. Take, for example, the 1-hour dance party. I did a few of these last year, and the best part about them is, they can be done with just about NO planning or cost at all. And besides, a revolution without dancing is a revolution not worth having. The only thing you need is some sheets or big pieces of fabric, thumb tacks, and music (and maybe permission…). The formula is simple: 15 minutes of set-up to move furniture and tack pieces of fabric to the ceiling. Turn on your musical device (streaming internet radio is great for this, if you don’t have free time at home to make a playlist). 30 minutes of dancing. I like to make my dance rooms in a u-shape so you feel like you’re in a little dance room, but it’s also open to anyone walking by that may have been planning on just using the restroom, and will inevitably get sucked into dancing. Remember to play dance music at a reasonable level so those with their doors closed aren’t going crazy. Kick everyone off the dance floor. 15 minutes of clean-up. All it took was your lunch break, and you can get everyone re-envigorated for the rest of their day.

If you are just starting the sometimes difficult journey to a fun office, try a theme day, where no time commitment is required at all. Take “Crazy hat day.” Simple. Easy to get on board with. If you wanted, you could set up a paper hat making/decorating station at the door for those who forgot or don’t have crazy hats, but still want to participate.

Shhhh...the clowns are working
Shhhh...The clowns are working

3. Always respect your fellow coworkers when having fun

It MAY be the case that not everyone will want to participate in tutu Tuesday or there MAY be meetings going on when you want to have a pirate-clown cocktail party. If you know it is going to be a loud-ish event, consider having it at the end of the day. If you have vegans in the office and want to have a “It’s Valentines Day and all i want to do is eat” potluck, make sure some of the dishes will be something they can enjoy, as well. Radical inclusion, right?

That being said, only take no for an answer on the second “no” when asking someone if they want to join in the fun. Sometimes people just need a little encouragement. Sometimes they REALLY just don’t want to play that day.

4. Bring extra fun to share!

Sometimes, as fabulous as we are, burners tend to forget that it isn’t necessarily common to have a full-body cat suit ready for “dress like an animal” day or a recipe other than “cooked” for “Bacon Day.” SO help them out! Say it’s Cowboys & Indians Wednesday during “Great rivals throughout history” week to get the blood pumpin’ at your law firm before a big case. You decide to go as Tonto, but also have 3 cowboy hats and a pair of chaps at home. Bring those along, too! There will always be someone that forgot it was dress-up day or doesn’t have something to go along with the theme. In fact, people that are shy about these sorts of things really tend to open up when they don’t have to plan their own outfits;)

Scanned photo from Great America's Halloween Haunt!
Scanned photo from Great America's Halloween Haunt

5. Have fun OUTSIDE the workplace…then bring it back!

One thing I can’t recommend enough is to plan events outside the office with your coworkers. This photo is from the 2008 Halloween Haunt at Great America. Nothing like war paint and roller coasters to bring the team closer together! The best part was that we got the photo taken together and put it up in the office for a while. It was great to walk in and see us all smiling with adrenaline and ready to take on the world. That’s the attitude we need getting ready for the event every year, and if it takes free falls and funnel cake to make it happen, then so be it.

I suppose the best advice I can give is don’t give up. Some people think work and fun don’t mix, but they certainly can, and should! Good milk comes from happy cows, and good work comes from happy workers. Not to mention it makes coming to work something to look forward to, instead of dread. So keep “work” from being a 4-letter work, and this coming year, bring a little Radical EnFUNment to your office.

Happy New Year from all of us at Burning Man HQ!

About the author: MachineGun Lily

MachineGun Lily (aka Lily Rasel) works on Burning Man's Government Relations, Legal Affairs and External Relations Teams, and (because Burners are nothing if not versatile) lays out the Black Rock City plan in CAD. An accomplished fire performer, she publishes Kindle Magazine, and is currently attending UC Berkeley's Boalt Law School.

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