Read the write-ups on the winners of this month’s inaugural Best Places to Work report, and you’ll see these firms take workplace culture to a whole new level.

But tucked away among all of the KPIs on which we surveyed employees was one variable that may have seemed borderline irrelevant to our contest judges: the fun index.

Most agencies over-indexed when it came to having fun, averaging in the 2.8 range out of 3. If you looked solely at that data point, you would get the impression their employees consider agencies to have a fun vibe, and that talent values fun.

But there’s another side to the story. Employees’ open-ended responses were replete with references to fun events and the like, from “fun Fridays” to “fun committees” — in a word cloud, fun would be writ large. Moreover, fun was associated with doing great work, increasing collaboration, and leading to a sustainable work environment.

Granted, for many employees, always having snacks and drinks in the office and having flexible policies with respect to medical appointments and family matters, are what they value.

Taken together, the verbatims and the actual “fun score” suggest respondents view fun just as seriously as these other areas. Talent not only signals a clear need for more of it, it also values a balance of fun and professionalism.

In a tumultuous era for agencies, the fun factor is integral to creating a sustainable workplace

In the verbatims, fun as an attribute was cited right up there with collegial and innovative as being top ingredients to a healthy work environment, “where people are people first and employees, colleagues, and teammates second.”

This is a somewhat tumultuous time in the agency world, what with networks undergoing reorganizations and behavior being much more closely scrutinized at all levels. There’s a danger for management to overlook the fun factor.

Maintaining, and upping, their internal fun quotient can help agencies cultivate people who will carry on the great legacy of marketing firms as the quintessential partners, able to stretch their clients’ thinking, offer a range of insights, and know what their customers’ customers are thinking.

We wish all of our readers and their families a joyous holiday season, and a healthy, prosperous — and fun — 2019.