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4 How to Play More at Work and Why You Must

Marketing podcast with Jonathan Fields

A few weeks ago I started a series of posts I’m calling Recover You. The series is focused on practices and habits that I believe lead to a healthier mind, body and spirit, a healthier business and ultimately a healthier economy. You can catch the entire Recover You series here.

The concept of work just doesn’t seem that fun. And sadly millions upon millions of people go into work, even work of their own creation, and get the life sucked right out of them.

What if work was more like play? Remember when you were a kid and you and your friends and siblings could get lost for entire days in the invention and implementation of play?

Well, certainly it helps if you love what you choose to do for a living, but like so many things in life play is as much an attitude as a state.


photo credit: linh.ngan via photopin cc

In this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast I had the chance to visit with Jonathan Fields, creator of The Good Life Project. Jonathan is on a mission to help people find and develop meaningful lives through their work and his weekly show is a shot of pure inspiration. While we didn’t talk specifically about play during our interview, I chose to include it in the context of this post because there is an element of joy Jonathan’s work and his Immersion Program.

I believe every business and every employee can benefit by purposefully adding elements of play to daily routines and organizational process.

Productivity at work isn’t about how much time you spend doing the work, as it is about how well you spend the time you invest. I know that I am always more productive when I feel good and am charged up – two things that play always delivers.

From a practical business standpoint there is much to like about play.

Play is a great way to connect

People are drawn to playfulness. It can be a defining personality trait of a brand or simply a way that you approach the things you need to do. Playful handbooks, emails and policies help people feel good about this thing we call work. Laughter is one of the greatest connectors in the human toolbox and study after study has proven the positive mental and physical health benefit offered by play. Who dictated that business and work was meant to be so darn serious anyway?

Play is super food for creativity

Creativity is the life-blood of any vibrant business and most of the work we end up doing leads to clogged creativity over time. Get the office together once a day and have a white board drawing contest or crank up Pandora and play name that artist and watch how the creativity begins to re-flow.

Play builds teamwork

The basic framework of most games depends upon teammates working together, within a set of rules, to achieve a common objective. Now that sounds like a healthy work environment to me. Take that up a notch and get people outdoors, into nature working together, playing a game and watch how quickly they resolve differences and work together.

Play reduces stress

Work can be downright stressful at times and play provides an outlet to reduce the physical and mental damages caused by stress. Play doesn’t have to mean a full-blown pick up basketball game in the warehouse either. We have two office dogs and I always feel recharged after taking them for a romp around the community garden that sits right outside my office. Dogs can teach us a thing or two about play.

Play doesn’t seem like work

When you are engaged in a game you enter what Psychiatrist and writer Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as a flow state. The state many gamers suggest takes over and allows them play for days on end. Now, I’m not suggesting that you install an X box 360 in every cube, but I do think you can add game like elements to just about every function. Creating sales contests, allowing people to win prizes for scoring points, and designing ways to turn reporting on objectives into games are just a few of the ways that organizations keep work fun.

Play is an attitude that can run through every element of what makes a company what it stands for. Playfulness has its own brand of attraction and every organization could benefit by creating a position responsible for keeping play alive inside and out.

3 Lighten Up Already

Humor and lightness are powerful tools in the hands of a creative marketer.

Nic's events via Flickr

Far too often business is treated as a serious, “just the facts,” grind it out kind of thing. Both employees and customers benefit from a business where play and laughter are as treasured as profit and process.

Some may contend that there is no place for humor in their business and to that I say, if your customers are human beings, there is a place. In fact, the Mayo Clinic offers a list of work related health benefits, including stress relief, associated with laughter.

It’s not hard to add a little personal fun and personality to your business. You don’t have to become a standup comedian, simply look at some of your current communication and follow up.

Is it boring, dry and fact based? Does it sound a little bit like a robot wrote it? Do you send out automated follow-ups that beg to be ignored? How about that out of office message – does is state the default message or does it make someone smile with a delightful little surprise?

Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby, recently stopped by the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast and recounted a story of his now famous package insert. He tells that one day he decided his “Thank you for your order” message, inserted in every shipment, was boring and didn’t sound like fun at all. So, on a whim he wrote the note below and he attributes this bit of silliness with creating more buzz for his organization than anything else he ever tried.

Your CDs have been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CDs and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CDs into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved ‘Bon Voyage!’ to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Sunday, December 11th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby.  We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”.  We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you once again,

Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby

There are so many ways to add humor, fun, play and lightness to the workplace and so many good reasons to do it. Consider a basketball court in the warehouse, let people decorate the office the way they like, have a formal Friday, send goofy gifts to customers, answer the phone in odd ways, create highly personal stories, post pictures of your staff during craft day, check your communication and follow-up messages – but most of all – lighten up already.

So, have any stories of how you’re using playfulness of how you’ve seen it done it well?