By Trish Rensink and Jamey Hasapis
For too many people, work is, well, work – a job. They dread going to work, procrastinate on getting tasks done, and don’t get too excited about being assigned projects by someone else.
For some, work is serious business. Work is work and we’ve got a job to do. If you’re not serious about work then your business isn’t really a business, is it? There’s a reason they call it work, right?
Get with it people! PLAY! Yes, play. Everyone is doing it. Fortune 500 companies are bringing in “funsultants” to help them learn to play. Major companies are enlisting their employees on spirit teams to bring fun to the workplace. Our culture has forgotten the importance of play in our daily lives. We either separate work and play or forget to play altogether.
Strong Correlation Between Success and Play
Dr. Stuart Brown, founder and director of the National Institute for Play, has been research- ing play since 1989. His research shows that play is not just joyful and energizing – it’s deeply involved with human development and intelligence. Trained in general and internal medicine, psychiatry and clinical research, he has interviewed thousands of people and discovered that there is a strong correlation between success and playful activity.
From the moment we are born, we begin learning about the world around us through play. We role play (did you ever pretend to be a fireman when you were a kid?); we play with objects and learn how they work; we explore to discover the world around us; and we play games to learn rules and social behavior. Then we go to school and find out that we have to work to get ahead; that we have to be serious and put our nose to the grindstone to be successful. Playing is something you only do during recess. As adults, we call them breaks.
So does that mean we have to stop working and begin playing? In a way, yes. We need to discover (or in some cases, rediscover) the concept of work as play. Find a way to make the work fun and exciting. How can you become passionate about what you’re doing? If you’re a business owner, you more than likely started your business because you had a passion about your product(s) or service. Once you regain that passion, you’ll begin to pour yourself into your work and you won’t be able to wait to do it. And your employees will start to catch your “fire.”
Laugh at Yourself
Both of us have experiences with humor in the workplace, being the butt of a joke, etc. Take Trish, for example: she had been traveling for her company to facilitate some training. When she arrived to the hotel that evening, she realized that she had brought a mismatched pair of shoes – one brown shoe and one black shoe. It was too late to go out and purchase a new pair, so she had to wear her mismatched shoes to the workshop. At a point in the workshop, her co-facilitator asked the group, “What’s the worst thing that could go wrong today?” And she got everyone to look at Trish’s shoes.
Once, I was facilitating an orientation of a group of employees from a company that was recently acquired by the company for whom I was working. There was a row of chairs lined up against the wall. I stepped onto the row of chairs and began a passionate speech about customers or something like that, and in my passion, I walked right off the end of the chairs and fell hard onto the floor. There was a loud “crack” and vibration of the floor. One of my peers rushed through the door adjoining our classrooms and exclaimed in a concerned voice. “Is everyone all right? We just had an earthquake!”
We both learned in these situations the value of taking our work seriously, but not ourselves. Humor at our expense turned into a great lesson to take into our business practices – to use humor and playfulness to create bonds, safe learning spaces, cultures of creativity, and positive work environments.
CEOs across the country are donning funny costumes, doing really bad rap videos and just cutting loose – giving their employees permission to play. You have the power and the opportunity to make your business a fun and exiting place for your staff. Start modeling play and don’t take yourself seriously.
We need to embrace the spirit of play. It engages us and brings us into the context of what we are doing and into the moment. We must give up the notion that play is not serious and that work and play are not opposites. They are absolutely linked. As Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft says, “These things are far too important to take seriously. We need to be able to play.” FBN
Trish Rensink and Jamey Hasapis are owner partners of BelleWether Group, an organization development company. They can be reached at 928-853-8206.