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Fun is serious business

April 19, 2024

The work that pharmacists and pharmacy teams do is not to be taken lightly. It can be high-stress and super-busy (which is one of the reasons job burnout is such a big problem in pharmacy these days). It requires deep, specialized knowledge and painstaking attention to detail, along with the willingness to engage with customers about some of their deepest concerns and challenges. Pharmacy is, in short, important work, and good pharmacist-owners treat it as such.
Yet as serious a business as a pharmacy surely is, it is also a workplace, where you and your staff will spend a good chunk of your daily lives. And if you want to get the most out of yourself and the team, then it pays to actually enjoy the time everyone spends there. Research clearly shows that happy employees are more productive, which makes intuitive sense. No one wants to be miserable, and you and your team deserve to be happy in your work, to know and like one another, and to enjoy interacting with each other and with your customers.
How do you make that happen? Well, good, equitable HR practices can go a long way. But we will offer one other ingredient for workplace happiness that’s often overlooked: fun.
Yes, you and your team can have fun in the workplace, and you can do it without resorting to childishness or pranks or practical jokes or even a foosball table in the staff room. All it takes is a little creativity and a willingness to try new things, as well as—and this is important—an openness to listen to your team to find out what they think is a fun activity. One simple way to do that is to a) tell them you’re looking for ways to inject more fun into working at your pharmacy and then b) ask them for ideas.
When you make your business more fun, the benefits are clear: higher engagement, which makes it easier to retain staff; a better workplace culture and team spirit; less job burnout and happier customers, because they will be interacting with happier employees. Ultimately, those can all lead to a healthier bottom line.
Want some ideas to get you started? Here are a few we really like:
  • Make sure you recognize and celebrate your employees’ birthday and other significant personal and professional milestones.
  • Socialize together. Go out for lunch or after-work drinks with your technicians and front-of-store staff, take them to an event or maybe for a round of golf (if that’s your thing). You’ll get to know them, they’ll get to know you, and everyone will trust each other more.
  • Game-ify boring tasks. For instance, inventory checks are—let’s face it—dull as dishwater. But what if you had a special reward for the staff member who finds the oldest item on your shelves? That gives them an incentive to keep at it and to be thorough.
  • Plan surprises. Bring donuts in the morning or a selection of subs for lunch, and don’t tell anyone about it before. Or maybe just have a quick staff party to celebrate someone’s achievements—even if there’s no immediate reason to do it.
  • Give them a break. Encourage staff to step away from whatever they’re working on and take a few minutes of mental vacation to do something they like. (This is a great one for Gen Z employees who get anxious when they’re away from their phones for too long!)
  • Welcome gathering for new staff. This casual yet thoughtful event encourages camaraderie and integrates newcomers into the team with ease.
  • Mindful Hiring. A key strategy in building a happy workplace involves thoughtful hiring that considers the dynamics of your existing team. It's possible to encounter a candidate who appears perfect on paper but, if they don't gel well with your dedicated employees or leadership group, their presence could be more detrimental than beneficial.
  • Personalization. During the onboarding process, employees are encouraged to complete a Individual Preference Profile by answering a series of questions. This valuable information allows managers to personalize celebrations and recognize achievements in a way that truly resonates with each person.
  • Vote on it. Ask the staff what they would like to do or where to go. This minimizes activities where no one wants to participate and these activities should not be mandatory, otherwise it becomes a work obligation.
The point is, making your workplace more fun doesn’t have to be a lavish or expensive undertaking. The small things matter. If you can come up with creative and fresh ideas, however minor they may be in the big scheme of things, your employees and your customers will thank you. So, we’ll repeat the challenge we made in an article at the start of the year: take a few minutes today to come up with three ways to make your pharmacy more fun, then put them into practice. You’ve got almost nothing to lose—and quite a lot to gain.
Written by:  Max Beairsto B.Sc. Pharm, MBA, CVA - is a pharmacist, valuation analyst and the president of EVCOR. EVCOR is a Canadian business valuation and boutique M&A firm that focuses on valuations and the sale advisory of independent pharmacies. Over the last 18 years through his company, he has been actively involved in hundreds of valuation assessments and consultations.
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