Photo by Petr Jilek

[#WorkTrends] How Child’s Play at Work Helps Navigate Uncertain Times

At work, we try to be serious grownups. But data shows that when we bring child’s play — yes, fun — into work, we are far more creative. And that’s when the real magic happens!

We know adult playtime increases camaraderie, goodwill, focus, and trust and reduces stress. So why aren’t more organizations incorporating play into their work environments?

Our Guest: Jeff Harry, a Top 100 HR Influencer

Jeff Harry helps individuals and companies tap into their true selves, to feel their happiest and most fulfilled — all by playing. Jeff has worked with Google, Microsoft, Southwest Airlines, Adobe, the NFL, Amazon, and Facebook, helping them infuse more play into their day-to-day activities.

I asked Jeff how embracing child’s play during a global pandemic can make a real difference for companies today. Jeff’s response cut right to the heart of the matter, especially when many of us are working remotely: “We have to ask yourselves: Is our staff feeling comfortable with work anymore? Are they able to be themselves — or even half of themselves?” Jeff is right; when we’re working from home, we’re not really fully present at work or home — and time for creative thinking, let alone play, is hard to come by.

Jeff suggested: “Go to your staff, virtually or not, and ask them, ‘What part of your job do you love to do most? What part of your job would you consider your flow work — the work where you forget about time. It’s the work where you, if you weren’t getting paid to do this, would do this anyway.” Jeff has learned that most people would say they engage in flow work maybe 10 percent of the time and that leaders have some influence here: 

“Give them an extra hour of play a day! That is their best work, so we must invest in that play time — the flow work.”

The Correlation Between More Play and Better Work

“Look at the companies that thrived in 2020. The TikToks, the Googles, Netflix, Disney Plus, and Hulu,” Jeff said, noting these companies are known for playful yet focused cultures. “People gravitate towards that. Actual money and business are attracted to that. Look at Google with their 20% program. They gave their staff a fifth of their time to pursue what was curious to them. From that came Gmail and Google Meet — billion-dollar ventures, because they allowed their staff to play and be curious.”

Jeff added that most companies don’t offer their employees enough time to play — that time needed to pursue their flow work or experiment within a psychologically safe environment:

“We’ve gotten so results-oriented and so focused on meeting expectations — and expectations are the thief of joy.”

I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation with Jeff — this is my flow work! Be sure to listen in — and then deliberately add more time for child’s play into your workday.


Find Jeff on LinkedIn and learn more about his work at Rediscover Your Play.


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