Employees Need Recess, Too…
For a great many years, I worked for an international resort chain called Club Med. Now, if you haven’t heard of Club Med, wait, how have you not? The “Club Med Effect” is known, celebrated and practiced the world-over, as their core philosophies are so ingrained into much of the all-inclusive resort industry, and the world’s greatest corporations, as well. It’s a thing! Check out places such as Disney, Beaches Resorts, or even sales corporations such as Nordstrom, Zappos…they all carry the same type of ‘magic’, that of which Club Med was widely the ring-leader.
So, why talk about Club Med on a blog for fitness and play? Solid question! Allow me to explain: Club Med taught me just about everything I learned about a playful work environment, travel, socialisation, performing, and possibly the most lasting impression, which was how to offer a workspace and leadership that is warm, inviting, inclusive and – you guessed it – playful.
I’mma Leave the Door Open, Gurl
So, here’s something that seems so basic, but carries a bit more weight that we might consider: Bosses, leave your door open! We often talk about how people “build walls” around themselves, and so imagine you’re a manager / director, and you’ve literally put a wall between your workspace and that of your employees. If you’re on an important call or meeting, it’s understandable, but how about an open-door policy when possible? It allows for you to be accessible, available, open to not only drop-ins, but it may well inspire and encourage more freedom to share, to brainstorm, and to simply check-in. Leave the door open when you can, and see! Double points if you wear a different mask every time someone comes in 😉
You Get a Burnout, and YOU Get a Burnout! You ALL Get a Burnout!
Covid is no joke. I mean, ok, it never was, but holy sh*t, is it ever going to end? Working from home sounded so cute at the beginning, wearing jammies, sipping coffee and just chilling up with the cat / dog / children / random items in your own comfortable abode while tuning in to a Zoom call…how quaint. So now, two years on, we’re all feeling a little more burnt out than before, and having never-ending access to all the technology isn’t really helpful. We’ve got smart phones, smart watches…and now, we have the company laptop at home, business hours are kind of all over the place, and we’re not really familiar with business attire. It’s a lot.
So here’s a fun thing to remember, especially if you’re at the Top of the Food Chain: consider that whatever you say or do will be followed closely, so those boundaries you set for working hours? Yep, your employees may be quick to fall into the same patterns; do you really need to be replying to emails at 3.30am? Is it necessary to text your employees on the weekends about work-stuff? I’ve worked for a few managers that had the habit of replying to important work emails outside of business hours, a sort of self-aggrandizing tendency, but I couldn’t get on board.
Many are in the front-lines, and typical business hours are not a possibility, but it might be a thing to consider if you’re one who falls into the bureaucratic hum drum 9 – 5…keep it as 9 – 5! Everything else can wait. Use those outside business hours for play, instead. Watch your teams do the same. (And they all lived happily ever after…)
I’m not being cheeky…well, maybe a little. It could be worthwhile to stick it to the man sometimes, but telling a higher up to “bite you”, I mean, hey, it could amp up your career, it could end it…you decide! Fun! But really, Bosses, a consideration: Notice how, after an hour or so, you feel the need to get up and stretch, take a break to use the loo, maybe refill the coffee or tea? An idea: create an opt-in for a “Movement Bite” at least three times each day. What’s a Movement Bite? It’s simply 10 minutes (or more, or less…) of moving our glorious bodies per “bite”; I suggest 3 bites to get a nice full 30 minutes in each work day.
Alas, here’s the issue: I live in Ottawa, the epicentre of bureaucracy in this perfect country. We aren’t known or celebrated in Ottawa for being particularly “fun” people. No, we are government! We are power! Politics! Windowless offices in barren plots of land with limited good coffee options! A lot of the federal government offices, I understand, have attempted a similar approach, and I’m told that some have hired meditation teachers, yoga instructors, facilitators of some kind of movement to help ‘boost’ employee mental and physical health, but in a great deal of cases, has only gone to put employees to sleep.
Why does movement need to be as structured as our already-boring business day? Why can’t it be fun, playful, spontaneous or improvised? Yoga can be so much more than a series of asanas and breath work; it can be made into a dance, into a silly game, into a high intensity workout. Indeed, I often start my corporate training, specifically, with a “Group Scream”, followed by our own Ministry of Silly Walks…in this day and age, we need, more than ever, to just let loose. Taking only 10 minutes at a time, not requiring any special equipment but a smile and a willingness to play can not only boost mental and physical health, but morale, creativity and your employees to want to stay with your business…because you’re FUN.
Darth Vader Didn’t Have Recess: Look How HE Turned Out
Hear me out: Darth Vader wasn’t a bad guy, he was just a kid who didn’t get to play a lot…and look where that led him. Vadey-Woggles, as I lovingly refer to him, was a nice kid who just didn’t get a chance to be a kid, then of course adding on a massive ton of PTSD – I mean, imagine your mother being killed by the Sand People in front of you??? – he was just angry, misunderstood, and then given a light-saber and a bunch of yes men…of course he turned out like that!
I’m not implying that your employees are going to jump into a pit of fire and lose their limbs and then turn to the dark side and blow up a whole planet, but I am saying you have been warned, Bosses! Employees need recess, too! We had it in school, and even in secondary school, we’d use lunch breaks and spares to hang out with friends, go for walks, play, enjoy each other’s company, and just enjoy life. In so many office settings, I see frazzled employees sat at their desks, wolfing down lunch or a snack as they sent frantic emails, reports, budgets, unable to feel they can get up and go play. Sure, they may well get up and stretch, but…play? Nope, not so much.
So here’s where you come in, Bosses: If you feel free to play, if you facilitate playfulness, if you start a quick game of high-stakes hide-and-seek every once in awhile, your possibly at-first reluctant employees might well join in the party…and what’s life without a party? BORING!
Barney Got it Right: “The More We Play Together, The Happier We’ll Be”
I can’t f*cking stand that purple dinosaur, nasal voiced singing monster, but he does have one solid point: we are, quite simply, happier together. Play doesn’t always have to be a team sport, indeed it often-times can be best enjoyed solo, contemplative, creative, but when we work in a busy, stressful setting and with a team, it doesn’t hurt to attempt to bring people together a little more and just play. I’m partial to Musical Chairs, Hit the Deck, Parachutes and Freeze Tag, myself, but there’s nothing wrong with a group puzzle, a boardgame, even gamifying the work day with funnier ways to achieve goals.
Psychological studies on the effect of play even go to show that it can boost our connection to our inner-child, thereby increasing creativity and morale. It also helps to boost productivity, and isn’t that a goal we could all go for?
Imagine what a world it could be if everyone at The Top would not simply encourage, but actively facilitate, engage in and create an atmosphere of play in its essence: not over-planned, deeply creative, and bringing people together. In this Pandemic-stricken world, wouldn’t that be a relief?