Like many parents out there this month, I’m getting ready to celebrate my son as he passes another milestone. He’s “moving up” from 5th grade. Yup, I’ll have a middle schooler on my hands at the end of the summer.

Now if you ask him, his summer will be filled with lazy days at the pool, countless hours spent watching his favorite YouTubers and nothing but downtime ahead. Let me say his reality will be a little different.

One of the mantras in our home is, “Work Hard, Play Hard.“ We try to teach our son the importance of spending time to work on building skills and learning. We also teach him to try and have fun while he’s doing it.

While the work gets harder as he/we get older, when we enjoy what we’re doing or can find the fun factor, time seems to fly. (So, there will be a few books involved in his schedule.)

We Need to Whistle While We Work

Unfortunately, these days, we know all about the “work hard” part of the mantra, but we forget to play.

Too often my clients report feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Mental fatigue is a common complaint right along with having too much workload. While we can’t always control the amount of work we have, if we can find the “fun” in the work again, it makes things easier.

As a kid I just loved the song “Whistle While You Work” from the movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was a great life lesson to find a way to enjoy the work you do. I took that to heart with finding a career that I love so much that even when I’m crazy busy, I’m energized.

Don’t get me wrong, I do take the rose-colored glasses off to look at the reality of the daily grind. There are days when things are more stressful than others. When you are dealing with challenging days, it can be hard to find the fun in things.

Bringing fun and play into the day can help alleviate the stress and make the grind easier.

An article by the Association of Psychological Sciences, “Playing Up the Benefits of Play at Work” shares research that shows the many benefit to teams, employees and organizations of incorporating “play” at work. Now if you’re old school, your eyebrows just went up and you probably thought “work is not supposed to be fun.” But when we engage in play activities at work, it helps to reduce stress, boredom and the dreaded burn out. It also supports camaraderie, engagement, trust and interpersonal relationships.

Basically, happy employees work harder, so give play a try.

Playing at Work

To have more playfulness into the way you work, look for ways to:

  • Bring fun into it. Whether by tapping into humor, making it a game or just a little bit of levity, creating something fun in the work aspect makes a difference.
  • Keep it spontaneous. Don’t be afraid to shake up a rough day with an impromptu game of trashcan basketball or cubicle volleyball. On the spot fun can keep things interesting and help ease the pain of stressful schedules.
  • Inspire creativity. Playtime at work gives the brain a rest from stress induced hormones and allows our natural creativity to come to the forefront. Play challenges the brain and helps to stimulate imagination and problem solving. Try puzzles, word games or brain teasers to get the brain power going.
  • Break the meeting monotony. Ice-breakers at meetings can cut the tension and help each other connect by creating new allies. Mind map a brainstorming session. Toss a ball to each other to “pass the mic” or invite someone to share ideas.
  • Play DJ. Music is one of the best ways to change a bad mood. Ask team members for a list of favorite songs and create a play list (once you’ve made sure they won’t offend.) Schedule a regular afternoon music break so folks know when to expect the dace party!

How do you play at work? Share some of your favorite ways to lighten the mood at work by dropping a comment.

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