Lesson #2: Remember that Happy Workers are Harder Workers

They can bring their dogs to work, wear jeans if they choose and compete in company-sponsored Elvis impersonator contests. Indeed, Ben & Jerry’s employees seem to have more perks than even the worker-friendly Google. Much like the Internet giant, Ben & Jerry’s has long recognized the importance of making a workplace fun for its workers.

In 1987, Greenfield came up with the idea for a Ben & Jerry’s Joy Gang, with a mission “to infuse joy into everything we do.” The Vermont hippies wanted fun to be an official part of their company culture. Initially, the Joy Gang’s activities were limited to providing free pizza and 15-minute massages to staff. However, as the company expanded, so too did the range of the Joy Gang’s projects.

Today, the Joy Gang’s approach to bringing fun to the workplace is three-pronged. Firstly, Joy Grants award up to $500 to employees who have an idea on how to make work more fun. From purchasing a hot cocoa machine for the company’s freezer crew to a stereo for the production crew, Cohen and Greenfield were willing to fund any creative ideas that might make for happier workers.

The second major function of the Joy Gang is to plan Joy Events. From Name That Face Contest, where employees bring in photos of themselves from the past for display in the company’s halls for others to guess who is who, to Barry Manilow Day, where the singer’s birthday is honored by playing his songs over the company speakers, Joy Events are meant to lighten everyone’s workday. Other popular Joy Events have included Mask Making, Jungle Party, Pizza & Puttin’, Vegas Night, and the Dog Days of Summer, where employee pets were treated to a flea-dip bath and all the toys and snacks they could handle.

There is no shortage of creative ideas finding their way around the Ben & Jerry’s offices. One year, the Joy Gang organized a Late Night Joy Party to show the company’s appreciation for those employees who worked late-night shifts. They cooked a lasagna large enough to feed everyone and brought in a DJ to play music all night long. Prizes, including cans of SPAM, were also awarded throughout the night. From celebrating American Chocolate Week (March 16-21) and Alan Alda’s Birthday to having a Wild Wild West Party, the Joy Gang leaves no stone unturned.

Thirdly, the Joy Gang takes great pleasure in its Joy Guerilla Tactics, secret activities that are not announced to company employees in order to surprise them. On a designated Play Day, the Joy Gang covered all of the lunchroom tables with white paper and left behind boxes of crayons and finger paints for the employees to enjoy over lunch.

Some would argue that it is success that in turn breeds a happy worker. However, at Ben & Jerry’s, the philosophy is exactly the opposite. Cohen and Greenfield are firm believers in the fact that happy workers breed success. Their own success thus far would seem to prove their point.

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