From everything I’ve studied and seen in business, the ones that are successful are the ones that have fun in the work that they do. There are two different kinds of playfulness. There’s a playfulness that is connected, integrated, engaged in the workplace. It’s really important to enjoy the work that you do. On the other hand, if somebody’s definition of being playful is actually switching off, being distracted, playing a game on their smartphone, then I would say there is no room for that in the workplace. That’s somebody’s personal choice, but I would consider that slacking off. To me, slacking and playing are different.
We used to have a foosball table at work and we’d share it. It was to blow off steam and we used it around lunchtime or after work, or every now and then with a client. It was engaging. And while we were playing, people would still be talking about work, solving problems together with teammates. I don’t think someone could get that, playing alone with a video game.
I know that people are different, and some like to work a long stretch and don’t take breaks. Some people can handle that, but I think the majority of people need to take breaks. I read a study about construction workers where people with a regular 10-hour shift were forced to take a five minute break every 60 minutes, and had fewer accidents. I’m more productive if I take regular breaks. I find that I’m happier with the work that I do.
With a sense of engaged playfulness, you don’t take yourself too seriously, but you’re serious about the work and you know things need to get done.
I know that when the shit hits the fan, it can get quite hectic, but sometimes in those situations, depending how people work together, it can actually be quite rewarding. Somebody might have a hard day solving a lot of problems and actually come home feeling good about themselves, because they enjoyed fixing problems.
There’s nothing like a workplace to push our buttons. You can get caught up completely in that or you can choose not to get emotional about it. Successful managers don’t take things personally. When you’re playing a game you don’t take things personally. When you can have the attitude of not taking things personally then you can see the situation as lila, a cosmic play unfolding that is so far beyond what we imagine.
I think lila is always playing itself out in the workplace. By choosing to be part of an organization, you end up spending a lot of time, so much of your waking hours, with people that you might well not have chosen to be around otherwise. You have experiences that give you the opportunity to learn yourself, to see how you work with other personalities. You can see that the lila helps you shift. It’s a great opportunity for growth because you’re getting to learn about aspects of yourself that might never have come up otherwise.
So remember: be serious about the work, but don’t take yourself too seriously. Remember that as Shakespeare said, all the world is a stage and each of us is just a player. If you can be simultaneously serious and professional and playful, you will have an enriching work day and a strong year, and ultimately it supports you building your business.
Since 1994, Rishi Gerald, founder and CEO of RishiVision and entrepreneurial coach, has empowered thousands of businesses. Rishi has an MBA in marketing and entrepreneurial studies and a BBA in accounting. He has spent nearly twenty years coaching, consulting, managing and supporting thousands of businesses from new start ups to active global leaders.