Play at Work

A friend of mine recently suggested I write a blog about having fun at work. I remember thinking at the time it was kind of a crazy idea – an oxymoron if you will. Just the idea of putting the two words together in the same sentence seemed rather silly.

The more I thought about the topic – the more the concept intrigued me. What if we could find a way to play at work? Surely there must be research out there on the topic. So I did what good bloggers do when facing writer’s block: I Googled it.

Play at work. Right before my eyes came streaming a litany of articles, books, research and – you guessed it, blogs. Even the New York Times had an article in the Sunday paper – actually an obituary – about Brian Sutton-Smith, a professor, author and developmental psychologist who spent his life and career studying play – more specifically children’s games.

And while Sutton-Smith’s loci of study pertained to child’s play, there are some concepts in his theories that can be applied to the workforce such as team building programs, brainstorming and participating in March Madness brackets at work.

I reflected on my own career and times when along with my co-workers we played at work. In my case, the best example was when I worked for a small, entrepreneurial geo-demographic firm in San Diego. We had a blast! We were constantly playing trivia games with one another and spoofs on holidays such as when one of the researchers brought his large stuffed rabbit into the office the day after Easter. Another time one of the staffers road her bike around the main floor of the office to let off steam. Both examples were playful and they worked to create an engaging, creative and fun work environment.

So it turns out that the concept of having fun on the job – play at work – is not such a silly idea after all. In fact, it just might lead to more creativity, job satisfaction, and productivity in the workforce.

Or in the words of the famous poet Emily Dickinson, “It is easy to work when the soul is at play.”

So, the next time you want to shake things up with your staff,  encourage a little fun in the office. Set the tone—try it yourself. It might be just the trick to turn things around. 

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