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<span class="pro_member_name">Leif Hansen</span>
Leif Hansen
Keynote Speaker, Event Facilitator and Trainer
Seattle, Washington
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Seven Ways to Bring More Playful Productivity to Your Work

Is play really the opposite of work? What if your most creative, productive & effective work was actually accomplished when in a state of playful flow? This article explores seven ways to make your work more playfully productive.
Written Jul 31, 2013, read 5144 times since then.
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1. Re-examine your assumptions and beliefs about work and play.

Journal, talk with peers & co-workers or schedule a staff meeting for discussion of how to make work more enjoyable, creative, and playful. Consider questions like these:

  • When you hear the word “play,” what comes to mind?
  • Is play the opposite of work?
  • If not, what is the opposite or work … or play?
  • Is it possible that more playfulness could lead to more productivity?
  • Does enjoying work more equate to not working as hard?

Choose to really bring transformation, or “playformation,” to your workplace.

2. Uncover your core passions and connect them to your business mission and values.

What activities, interests, and values help you feel alive every time you participate in them or talk about them? It's helpful to look back over your life for themes that have persisted since youth. When coaching clients, I call this process “finding the golden thread.”

Something — hopefully more than just the need for money — led you into doing this work. How are those core passions being expressed in your workplace? And if they're not being expressed enough, how can you find creative ways, or the support you need (friend, co-worker, manager, coach), to make it more fulfilling and fun?

3. Schedule at least one, if not a few, “non-screen” times during your day.

I've noticed that when I've been sitting in front of a screen for long periods, I become unaware of my feelings. It's a bit unnerving to notice a kind of zombie-like numbness settling in.  Those who know me know I've led workshops on this topic, Seattle's SoulTech was even featured on the Today Show.  Yet I continue to struggle myself...

Turn off your computer, leave your cell at your desk, stand up and try letting your body or heart lead things for a while. Go for a walk alone or with a co-worker. Play a game. Perhaps scream or sing (keep a pillow handy nearby if necessary to muffle the volume!) Talk face-to-face with a co-worker. You might be surprised to find that the delightful five-minute conversation actually saved you sending and reading several emails.

Do anything that engages you as a FULL person — body, heart, mind, and spirit.

4. Schedule regular daily or weekly play time with your co-workers, peers or friends.

This could be done using board games, foosball in the office, a team sport — or it could be more social games with direct application to increasing creative flow. Here are two simple activities I might use with groups and that would be relatively easy for anyone to facilitate.

“Sound Ball.” A classic, simple, fun, energizing, and right-brain-expanding activity. The silliness of the game helps people to loosen up and not fear making mistakes or looking foolish — everyone looks silly, and mistakes are even encouraged.

  • Have the group stand in a circle. The first person “passes” an improvised sound (encourage it to be the first sound that comes to mind) to her right. That person “catches” the sound by repeating it, and then he passes a new sound to the next person. And so on and so on.
  • You can evolve the game in a variety of ways. Pass the sound anywhere in the circle; include a facial expression with the sound; include a “shape” (of a certain weight, size, or texture) for the sound; have the whole group repeat the sound, etc.

“Good News / Bad News.” This is a great activity for demonstrating the foundational improv principle of “Yes, And” as well as demonstrating how life tends to shift and transform.

Gather the group in a circle, ideally divisible by three, as each person will get a chance to start the story differently each time. Explain that you will give an opening to a story, something like "Lisa went to the beach."

  • The first person in the circle will then continue the story with one to three lines, like "The bad news is …  it started to rain."
  • The next person starts their sentence, "The good news is … there was a cozy café she'd been wanting to visit right next to the beach."
  • The third person will further the plot of the story by starting their sentence with "And so ...she settled in for the afternoon and wrote the first chapter of her book."

The three-part cycle continues with "The bad news is …” “The good news is …” “And so …” Story continues until they have all had at least one turn, possibly two to three turns, depending on your time and how much they are enjoying the exercise.

Make sure to debrief after activities by asking people what they noticed about the process and about their reactions. 

5. Create a comfortable play-space or lounge in your workplace.

While many new companies, particularly in the tech industry, include video game consoles in their social spaces, consider some alternatives. Yes, video games can be a fun way to play together occasionally, but when screens are around, we tend to turn away from each other as well as away from our bodies and creative imaginations.

Consider instead filling your new space with more physical games, art supplies, comfortable furniture to encourage socialization, white boards for playful ideation, board games that encourage creativity and discussion, etc. Get creative and let as many staff as possible help create the space.

6. Bring more of your personal, creative, playful life into the workplace.

The pressure to conform to a “professional image” often brings a spirit that is antithetical to play. While every organization has different policies, try pushing the edges to integrate more of your and others’ authentic selves into the workplace.

Bring some of your hobbies to your desk or new play-space. Play guitar during lunch breaks. Dress more creatively and authentically. Trust is the heart of all good business relationships, and authenticity helps cultivate that trust.

Some other playful and creative ideas to consider:

  • Leave secret notes and gifts around the office.
  • Play a funny and non-harmful prank on a co-worker.
  • Coordinate an improvised “flash mob” musical for unsuspecting staff or clients.
  • Make a silly or competitive game out of your current sales calls.

Trust your inner “coyote”– he'll show you the way.

7. Do some more reading and research on this subject.

Here are three great books I'd recommend:

Plus...

You don't have to do this alone.  There are folks out there, like myself, who would love to help you and your team become more creative, innovate, playful and productive.  Give us a call to talk about our Accelerated CreativityTeam Ignition or other exciting offers customized to fit your unique situaiton.  

I hope you've found this article to be helpful.  Please feel free to call or email if you have any questions or if your'e interested in receiving coaching, training or facilitated support for yout events.

 

Learn more about the author, Leif Hansen.

Comment on this article

  • Keynote Speaker, Event Facilitator and Trainer 
Seattle, Washington 
Leif Hansen
    Posted by Leif Hansen, Seattle, Washington | Aug 01, 2013

    I was interviewed by a Seattle magazine about play in the workplace. The above piece was a supplement to that interview. If you'd like to read the whole article ("Pay without Ceasing. Why work and play are not opposites and actually belong together"), then check it our here.

  • Director Of Operations 
Tustin, California 
Beth Worthy
    Posted by Beth Worthy, Tustin, California | Aug 04, 2013

    Hi Leif,

    I really liked your idea to leave secret notes and gifts around the office. That can be really fun and makes you closer to your colleagues. Thanks for sharing.

  • Keynote Speaker, Event Facilitator and Trainer 
Seattle, Washington 
Leif Hansen
    Posted by Leif Hansen, Seattle, Washington | Aug 05, 2013

    Thanks Beth, post a story if you end up being an office elf :)

  • Coach, trainer, mediator, IT professional 
Seattle, Washington 
Louise Penberthy
    Posted by Louise Penberthy, Seattle, Washington | Aug 07, 2013

    This is a great article. I love using improv to help people be more productive.

    Another good improv game is "Yes And Story."

    The group stands in a circle. One person goes first, saying a sentence that could start a story. The person next to them says "Yes, and..." and adds to the story. And so on until the story ends.

    The only "rule" is that each person builds on what's already been said.

    How do you know the story has ended? Usually it'll be obvious, cause it feels like an ending and everyone laughs.

  • Keynote Speaker, Event Facilitator and Trainer 
Seattle, Washington 
Leif Hansen
    Posted by Leif Hansen, Seattle, Washington | Aug 07, 2013

    Louise, thanks, glad you liked it :)

    Let me "Yes and" your "yes and story" game :)

    It's nice to first try a round of "Yeah, but"s with the circle so they get a sense of the typical energy drop and blocking that happens in meetings, etc. It's also fun, in a business context, to try the round with an idea for a new business or product...both the "yeah but" round and "yes and" generative round :)

  • Social Media Liason 
Kenmore, Washington 
Audrey Huddleston
    Posted by Audrey Huddleston, Kenmore, Washington | Jun 21, 2014

    Great attitude-work places should be fun to showcase a workers passion. Those books sound interesting as well, I will be sure to add them to my must read list.

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