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'What ! Can I Really Play at Work? ' from Cie Murray: Got the Power?

What ! Can I Really Play at Work?

Date: Oct 27, 2013
Category: Work Engagement 

by Cie Murray

You may be thinking I don't have time to play at work. I have a business to run or I have to make sales calls. The truth is you can't afford not to play at work.  So many of our workplaces are filled with stress and anxiety that are hindering us from being fully engaged, fulfilled, and productive.  Although stress often creates anxiety which resides within us, we do have the ability to reduce and eliminate the affect it has on us.  How you may ask?  By turning your work into play. 

All of us participated in play activities as children. What kinds of play activities did you do? What was it exactly that we were doing when we engaged in play?  We were connecting with others. We were taking risks, living in the moment, being spontaneous, adventurous, curious, solving problems, and even dealing with pressure. Play was showing us how to live life more joyously.

Just because children grow into adulthood doesn't mean play should be excluded from work.  When work is play, you are able to fully engage in the work itself. Work begins to feel less like work and more like play.  When I play at work, I notice that my mind is freed up from too narrow a concentration and my thinking has room to take on a fresh and creative perspective. A person with play in her life is not only able to get more work done, but is better able to see new insights, concepts, and even innovation in her work.

What activities could you begin doing to turn on your playing power at work? Here are three simple and easy Player Tools to get you started.


#1 "STOP" to Play at Work

When you are stressed, tired, overloaded, or pressured, take a “STOP to Play” break. You’re probably familiar with Dr. Roger Sperry’s right-brain, left brain behavioral trait theory for which he won the Nobel Prize in 1981. According to Sperry’s research, the logical behavior traits are performed on the left side of the brain on the conscious level, while intuitive behavior functions on the right side of the brain at the subconscious level.

 When I’m experiencing the STOPs—stress, tiredness, overload, and pressure—I stop working and “go” to the beach in my thoughts. I look at pictures of my favorite beach on St. John, Virgin Islands, and imagine myself walking on the sand. I feel my toes in the water, then my ankles, and then I’m waist deep, until finally I am totally submerged in the warm water.  After a couple of minutes of beach play, I am relaxed and better able to get re-submerged in whatever I was working on before I took this brief break.



Another way to incorporate play in the workplace is in your meetings. Michael Begeman, a meeting expert, was having a meeting with a group of executives. Each executive was given two toys—a meeting network mouse pad and a squeeze pad. Without being prompted, the executives played with these toys for the entire meeting. When one person would say something that another person didn’t like, the second person would throw a ball across the table. Begeman believes the more you involve the whole person in a meeting, the more people will learn and the more of that learning they will retain. 

When the weather is favorable, consider having your meetings outside in the open air instead of in the boardroom. If you have a corporate lawn, take blankets and refreshments with you. Start the meeting by looking up at the sky for a minute. Begin to wonder and imagine how things could be as you take on a different perspective of the issues at hand.



This final play activity is a favorite. The mission of this activity is just to have fun.  Coordinate having a play box in the break room or have your own personalized box in your office. The play box could be as simple as one of your desk drawers.  Load it up with your favorite playthings. Have co-workers bring in their favorites too, such as Silly Putty, LEGOs, Nerf guns, pogo sticks, comic books, or anything else that could be played with on an individual basis.

 For a more sophisticated play experience, consider gamification.  Gamification is the use of electronic or mechanical games that can encourage workers or customers to engage in certain behaviors.  Gerhard Gschwandtner, Publisher of Selling Power, believes  "gamification taps into people's native instinct to play, keep score, and enjoy virtual rewards as well as inspire the player's commitment to perform at a higher level."*  If you have fun playing with your toy, your mission was accomplished.

Initially you may feel uncomfortable with the Player Tools. You don’t have to incorporate all the activities at once. Just do one activity for a month.  Then pick another one and do it for a month. It won’t be long before you have turned work into play.

What other ways have you used to turn work into play?

*Gerhard Gschwandtner, "It's Time to Build a Better Sales Engine" p.8, Selling Power, July/August/Sept. 2012


Cie Murray is the Drives Sales Strategist Speaker in Atlanta, Georgia.  Visit her blog at  or follow her on Twitter @CieMurray


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