Don't forget to have fun - at work

  • Published
  • By Col. Charles Arnold
  • 21st Mission Support Group commander
When my task-oriented front office team allows me a little free time, which isn't often, I like to get out and roam the halls of the mission support building, or jump in my vehicle and visit base facilities to see how our Team Peterson members are coping with day-to-day challenges. Over the past year I have noticed a disturbing trend - we don't seem to be having a whole lot of fun in the workplace.

Trust me, I understand why - this era of sequestration and related budget challenges doesn't exactly create a warm and fuzzy atmosphere. Our daily Department of Defense news is dominated by government shutdown, furloughs, hiring freezes, and force reductions that impact every member of Team Peterson, so it is only natural that a pall would be cast over installation work centers. Now for good measure, let's pile on devastating local wild fires and 100-year storms that flood local communities and cause incredible devastation. And by the way, the mission doesn't stop; it doesn't even slow down.

So I genuinely understand why work center behavior might be subdued and water cooler talk, if there is still such a thing, is focused on the negative aspects of our day-to-day activities. As the mission support group commander, I fall into the same trap - my days are filled with worry about fixing broken boilers with no funding, the impact on library employees and customers when we closed the facility during shutdown, the demands I have placed on the heavily-tasked civilian personnel section as they navigate evolving shutdown and sequestration guidance. Mostly I worry about the impact sequestration has had on our civilian workforce, and every day I am amazed at their continued professionalism and production in the face of an avalanche of bad news and disappointment.

So how do I get through each day? Simply put, I have fun at work - yes, at work - I look for the positive, continue to build personal relationships with those around me, and I laugh a little every day, even if it means I'm laughing at myself, which is often the case.

So in this era of sequestration, we still need to remember to have fun at work. The most resilient people I cross paths with are those who mix work with fun, even in our current environment. This past week I had the pleasure of working closely with the 21st Operations Support Squadron's outstanding base operations team as they executed CORONA distinguished visitor arrivals and departures. I was struck by the fact that even in the middle of the pressure cooker that is CORONA, this team was having fun. Led by their commander, Lt. Col. Bobby Hutt, they balanced the demands of de-conflicting DV arrivals (at one point they had three DV aircraft arriving in one 10-minute period), with enjoying working together - they shared homemade food, talked fantasy football, disparaged the Dallas Cowboys, and discussed efforts at mentoring Girls Scouts all while flawlessly executing their mission. Most importantly, they had fun.

Similarly, I had the chance to visit Cheyenne Mountain AFS shortly after the devastating landslides that closed access to the installation. What stuck with me the most was that despite cold and rainy conditions, a mess of boulders, tree limbs and mud that words cannot capture, the danger of additional mudslides, and long shifts of backbreaking work, the engineers from Fort Carson, Cheyenne Mountain AFS and Peterson AFB were still somehow finding a way to enjoy their work. I will not forget the pride Master Sgt. Tim Ebbens from the 21st Civil Engineer Squadron displayed as he stood in the middle of the devastation and briefed me on his team's efforts to help clear the roadway - he and his team had found a way to have fun in the midst of the turmoil.

I realize some will read this and believe I am being overly simplistic, and I'm probably guilty as charged. However, I would challenge every member of Team Pete to try to have a little fun at work. For leadership, please take a moment to ask yourself if you are creating an environment and providing the time needed to allow your team to take a few minutes each day and enjoy themselves. Believe it or not, even in today's sequestration-dominated environment, there is room for a little fun in the workplace - good feelings are contagious, so beat back the gloom and go forth and spread a little laughter and happiness.