How and Why We Need to Play at Work

Play-at-WorkIt’s obvious that play outside of work  ̶  through sports, games, family activities and community functions – is essential. For example, golf is widely practiced by executives. Social and business connections happen when you spend time with others playing sports. What is less obvious is our need to play at work, as we work. Play – as we work – can energize us, helps us to see new patterns, sparks curiosity and triggers ideas and innovation.

Play helps us deal with work problems. What kind of play is appropriate at work? You don’t necessarily have to engage in off-site team-building games to play at work, although those are occasionally beneficial.

But there is a playful mindset that doesn’t involve elaborate planning. It simply means to step-back, see the humor in things, play with possibilities, words, observations, and allow openness.

A playful attitude gives people the emotional distance to rally. Often the problem is not the problem, it’s how we react to the problem. When employees are focused on personal or collective failure, the energy and optimism necessary for solutions is depleted.

Play is a lubricate that allows human society to work and individuals to be close to one another. When we play, we don’t put up defensive walls, we accept others as they are. Yet we have a responsibility to play fair. Teasing can be both beneficial and harmful. When our interactions are based on a foundation of caring, we avoid hurting others.

Play enables cooperative socialization and nourishes trust, empathy, caring and sharing. Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to those with a playful mindset is that it stimulates creativity. Playfulness leads to imagination, inventiveness and dreams – which help us think up new solutions to problems.

Play is what allows us to attain a higher level of existence, new levels of mastery, imagination, and culture. When we play right, all areas of our lives go better. When we ignore play we start having problems.~ Stuart Brown, MD, Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul.

I find in the work I do as a coach, people take themselves seriously to the point of avoiding play or humor. There’s a fear of being perceived as flippant, or of inadvertently offending someone.

But when play is injected into daily life, we can uplift spirits, energize creativity and foster stronger relationships. Do you use the power of play to generate new ideas? Are you renewing yourself regularly by engaging in playful activities? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. You can contact me here and on LinkedIn.


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