The decline of fun in the workplace

Opinion: John Rice

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By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

I've been working for the newspaper for 32 years. Every year, the highlight of my holiday season has been attending the newspaper Christmas party. I think it's because many of us work remotely and it was the one time we could enjoy some camaraderie. This year is our first without a holiday party! I see it as part of a larger trend, the decline of fun in the workplace.

There was a time when we really had fun at work. We were experts at goofing off. Lunches were leisurely and going out for drinks after work was common. Life was slower-paced. We followed the old maxim: we worked hard and played hard.

Holiday office parties were blowouts. My friends hosted a huge party in downtown Chicago. Our clients also threw parties. It was a treat to make the rounds in December and socialize with people we only spoke to on the phone. Our clients also bombarded us with treats. 

We returned the favor by giving them liquor. Every year, we purchased several cases of hard stuff. It was a big chore to deliver the bottles of booze but we always received a warm welcome. My father didn't drink but he made sure family, friends and clients didn't go thirsty. 

He also supported sobriety. He hired recovering alcoholics to help them get back on their feet. Many of these workers were newly sober and a little shaky. Some were still in the white-knuckle stage of fighting the urge.

One of these workers was named Leroy. I was a passenger once with Leroy and noticed he didn't stop for things like stop signs and stoplights. When I asked him why he didn't stop, he confessed that he didn't even have a driver's license. My dad was a trusting soul. When it was time to deliver the Christmas liquor, he handed his car keys to Leroy, with directions for delivering a trunk full of booze.

After Leroy left the office, I told my dad that Leroy didn't have a license. This worried him a bit. Leroy was gone for two days but returned with the car intact and the trunk empty. After a while, though, we stopped giving out liquor. We gave out candy, instead, even though liquor had been much quicker for getting business.

The big blowouts downtown also came to an end. Our clients stopped sending us treats. The newspaper party, though, remained a constant in good times and lean times. Now that's gone and my little company doesn't have a party anymore.

Some of this is for the better. Drunkenness and inappropriate behavior were common at the big blowouts. People drove home who shouldn't have been driving. Quickie romances made Monday morning very awkward. 

So instead of getting our clients drunk, we tried a different approach to win their business. We concentrated on doing high quality work for them. This was absolutely no fun but kept us solvent. Leisurely lunches were out. No more card-playing at the office. No more sneaking out to the golf course in the middle of the work day.

I really miss wasting time talking sports or discussing politics. In fact, I can safely say I no longer have fun of any kind at work. It's become pure drudgery and I'm busier than ever. There was a time when work was relaxed and carefree and we didn't take it too seriously. 

I don't know if those days will ever return but I hear a rumor that the newspaper is going to have a party to celebrate the New Year.  

Wow, those used to be dangerous.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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