To Renew Yourself, Try Playing at Work

It’s obvious that play outside of work  ̶ through sports, games, family activities and community functions – is essential. 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 is also a valuable tool for helping us deal with work problems. What kind of play is appropriate at work? You don’t 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 lubricant 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. For example, 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, especially in a workplace setting. 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.  As long as you are mindful, a workplace open to play is generally a happy and productive environment.

Want to brainstorm ways you could incorporate play into your workplace? Contact me here or on LinkedIn or Twitter.

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