• Anna Khoh

It’s All Fun And Games - Bringing playfulness and fun back to work

A common theme that I’ve seen emerging amongst colleagues and clients is that many of us have lost a little bit of joy at work. That things are somewhat lacklustre and just ticking along, in a not-so-bad way but nothing is

really bringing us the enjoyment at work that we might be used to.

It's not a huge surprise to me that I’m seeing this theme emerge, after all, we are still in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic which has created grief, trauma, lost connection and isolation for many. Not much joy or playfulness there. There’s also the continued uncertainty of stability at work, with so many having experienced redundancy or layoffs in the last 2 years and watched businesses crumble. This certainly puts the brakes on making a move to another role or organisation or even to rock the boat at work by asking for a promotion. Better the devil you know as they say, and as long as the devil is providing enough perceived certainty we’re less likely to disturb the equilibrium by making any radical changes.

Being curious, and a little nerdy when it comes to neuroscience and psychology, I started to look into why a lack of playfulness might impact on our wellbeing and leave us feeling less motivated to make positive changes. The research told me that being playful at work impacts our cognitive functions, it makes us more optimistic and better able to handle stressful situations. It can even prevent absenteeism at work and creates more meaningful connections with colleagues thus increasing engagement and productivity. Mind blown! No wonder many of us are looking to fill that playful void again.

As we start to find our feet after being bombarded with uncertainty and change from all areas of our lives over the past couple of years, I too find myself craving the lighter side again, to rediscover the joy I get from working, from connection, from laughing with others. For me, this means making a conscious effort to do things I enjoy, to ensure I let go and relax, giving myself permission to not take life so seriously for a few moments. I even made a couple of jokes in the Executive Group Slack channel, step aside Amy Schumer, there’s a new gal in town!

At first it felt a little forced but the memory muscle was still there, it just needed a little flex and a run around the block and now it feels more natural again. I can already see the benefits in lifting my playful game, in particular with my personal connections which have started to feel more genuine and joyful again, something I have missed since we have all been so physically distant from each other. I also noticed a shift in my mindset towards change and have made the ultimate leap from the security of the 9-5 to the excitement of freelance independent working. I can’t put that down to playfulness alone, but I’m certain that it helped inject a little more confidence in myself and my ability to make meaningful decisions.

So, what will you do today to start bringing playfulness back into your work? Tell a joke to start your next meeting, spend 5 minutes more with a colleague laughing about the latest Wordle meme or watch a few minutes of the Australian election campaign at lunch time (jokes!).

Let me know what you did (or plan to do) in the comments below!

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