What Happens When You Become More Playful At Work (And Everywhere Else In Life)

Work doesn't have to be dull.

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“Too much fun at work.” That is something I rarely hear these days in my profession of coaching people on living their best lives.

Yet, I wonder if we don’t discount the power of play and enjoyment for high performance on the job.

There are benefits to play and maintaining a playful attitude, even in the most serious of careers.

We all have a need to have fun. Good humor is jovial, energizing, and attractive. Humans benefit from the power of play during their entire lifespan, not just as children and adolescents.


The people who stay sharp and interesting as they age are the ones who continue to play and work.



According to Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul, posits that the opposite of work is not play. Play and work are mutually supportive. Yet, most of us have learned to be serious when it comes to our careers. At work and in our careers, we often squelch our natural drive to have fun.

However, play helps us deal with difficulties, handle challenges, and tolerate routines and emotions, such as boredom or frustration — which can benefit us in work and in life.

Play provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery, and remains vital to the creative process. Yet something happens to most of us as we become working adults. We shift our priorities into organized, competitive, goal-directed activities. If an activity doesn’t teach us a skill, make us money, or further social relationships, we don’t want to waste time being nonproductive.

Sometimes, the sheer demands of daily living and family responsibilities seem to rob us of the ability to play.


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I have found that having a playful attitude is probably the most important factor in being a fulfilled human being.

The ability to play is critical, not only to being happy, but also to sustaining social relationships and being a creative, innovative person that is enjoyable for others to work and collaborate with.

Some years ago, I was referred a top-level executive in the financial services, a female who was a vice president with international duties from a major U.S. corporation. She was known for being “reserved, calculating, unfriendly, and stern,” according to her team members, and she wanted to change that. 


So I gave her an unusual task: I asked her to go to the park and to observe the children there for at least an hour. At our next session together, I asked, “How did the experiment in the park go?” There was a pause and then a giggle. And then she said, “You are not going to believe what happened.” 

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After an hour of watching and observing, she felt a strange urge to get on one of the swings and just swing. When she did that, the nearby kids chuckled, and some came to push her, as an adult would do to a kid. 

Laughing and swinging, she was having no sense of being a proper adult. She was being childlike and freely playing. She then went to the park on another day over her lunch break, and some of the same kids greeted her. She said she had a sense of belonging and feeling accepted in a way she never had. 

The end result of this story is that the playful personality carried over to work. She began being warmer to her staff, asking about their families, looking at photos of their kids or grandkids, and showing a newfound appreciation of the lessons from children in playfulness. 

Months later, her staff gave her feedback about how much more fun she was. Even though she was still the boss, she was more respected. And she was promoted to a job in Asia as a result, which she had always wanted.


Play allows individuals to bond and grow close to one another through light-hearted interaction, which can benefit your relationships in the workplace.

When we play, we don’t put up defensive walls. Play enables cooperative socialization and nourishes trust, empathy, caring, and sharing.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to those who bring a playful mindset to work is that it stimulates creativity. Playfulness leads to imagination, inventiveness, and dreams, which help us think up new solutions to problems — all of which have obvious benefits in the workplace.


My personal motto is, “If it isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it. And when it isn’t, how can I make it fun?”

After all, when we stop playing, we stop growing. So find subtle ways to infuse a little bit of playfulness into your life and your work, and you'll be so much happier that you did.

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For more ways to infuse a little more playfulness into your life, see DrPatWilliams.comAlso, read Dr. Pat Williams's new book, Getting Naked: On Emotional Transparency at the Right Time, the Right Place, and with the Right Person on Amazon or Balboa Press and in Audible books.


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