Historically, playing at work was no different than being caught on hidden video picking your nose on the job all day. No one in their right mind would want management to see them doing anything remotely enjoyable. For the Facebook Me Generation this workplace attitude must feel like very industrial, Hard Times thinking, which may not be irrational when repetitive motion, production line models are the driving force of an economy. But, even then, it seems only natural that people will walk under the yoke for only so long - even now, there are stories about China-based workers turning down good manufacturing jobs for more pleasant, stress-free office work.
Further along that work attitude evolution timeline, a solid slice of the U.S. workforce keeps stepping further from a grueling 9-5 day of punching the clock, and instead is pursuing more of an intentional, life-work balance, in tune with the mantra of, “work smart, not hard.” So, it’s easy to see how a workplace environment today could feel a little more like summer camp than an 1900s version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Mordor.
A Drymos Group LLC headhunter recently posted a NYC-based $250k programmer position opening. One qualified target said he would be interested only if it was a remote position - who wants to leave the relaxed suburbs of Washington State to live in a high-stress NYC metro-area?! Another candidate declined an interview for a $200k programming position because the work environment was reputed to be too intense (employee bathroom breaks timed etc.). Of course, by offering such good money, those positions will be filled, just like when in 1914 Ford increased wages to a point that even skilled craftsmen left a labor of love to feed America’s industrial machine. Reading today’s books, like Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft, has convinced throngs of contemporary romantics that there is more to work, and life, than money.
The research is there to back up the idea that while it’s important to make enough money to satisfy personal / family needs, monetary reward isn’t what really motivates us (beyond working harder at simple tasks and expecting better pay for increased production). What motivates us is that we serve a greater mission, follow our dreams, make a difference. Are your employees feeling that way? For more information, check out this TheRSA.org video.
We’ve heard so much about Google being such an outrageously cool place to work, but many smaller companies have been on board with the play
at work concept for years as well.
Some years ago, before FastPivot.com moved to a virtual work space model, this Yahoo! Store development company’s employees would drive into hip downtown offices in Asheville North Carolina, and warm up for work with a Nerf gun battle. And, CEO, Matt Ledford, had a reputation for spontaneously flying the team to trade conferences around the country (located in highly desirable destinations, of course) to shake off the cobwebs and mingle with other creatives.
Making Play Work
Chipping away at centuries of “anti-play” conditioning is no game of laser tag. Some easy first steps include contracting with an industrial psychologist to discuss what’s right for your organization, surveying employees on break room / work place upgrades, etc. Some workplaces are so dreary that any update is an improvement. Ideas that have gained traction are introducing into the workplace games (ping pong, table football, pin ball machines, etc.), more time in the schedule to play, exercise classes (yoga, meditation, etc.), inspirational interior design (i.e. rainbow motifs over drab institution egg shell, and open collaborative spaces vs. pod-sized cubicles). According to Craig McAnsh, founder of Mojo Coworking , a co-working office space in downtown Asheville NC, management must do more than install fun workplace fixtures. It’s about cultivating an attitude that says it’s OK to play at work. “Leaders must play, not just set up infrastructure. Talk about playing as part of your day.”
Contact Jonathan Poston M.E. of Drymos Group LLC (Corporate recruiting, training, and promotions) at info -at- drymos.com or at