Monday, September 20, 2010

Schumpeter: Down with fun | The Economist

The depressing vogue for having fun at work 

ONE of the many pleasures of watching “Mad Men”, a television drama about the advertising industry in the early 1960s, is examining the ways in which office life has changed over the years. One obvious change makes people feel good about themselves: they no longer treat women as second-class citizens. But the other obvious change makes them feel a bit more uneasy: they have lost the art of enjoying themselves at work.

The ad-men in those days enjoyed simple pleasures. They puffed away at their desks. They drank throughout the day. They had affairs with their colleagues. They socialised not in order to bond, but in order to get drunk.

These days many companies are obsessed with fun. Software firms in Silicon Valley have installed rock-climbing walls in their reception areas and put inflatable animals in their offices. Wal-Mart orders its cashiers to smile at all and sundry. The cult of fun has spread like some disgusting haemorrhagic disease. Acclaris, an American IT company, has a “chief fun officer”. TD Bank, the American arm of Canada’s Toronto Dominion, has a “Wow!” department that dispatches costume-clad teams to “surprise and delight” successful workers. Red Bull, a drinks firm, has installed a slide in its London office.

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Schumpeter: Down with fun | The Economist

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