All Work and No Play
In a podcast produced by the London Business School, Babis Mainemelis, an assistant professor of organizational behavior, discusses the importance of play at work. Much has been written about work/life or work/play balance, but rarely does one actually encourage play at work.
He makes the case that companies like Google, Apple and Pixar are successful and stay on the cutting edge of creativity largely because they actually encourage employees to play at work. He makes a distinction between play at work (or what he refers to as play as diversion) and play with work which he terms play as engagement.
Play as diversion encourages creativity, allows a mental rest and gives ideas a chance to marinate and incubate while employees literally play games, socialize or otherwise leave the work behind for awhile. Employees go back to work feeling refreshed and often find solutions to problems appear suddenly.
Play as engagement allow employees to establish more informal relationships with each other, build trust and encourages flexibility in work processes. There is the feeling of having more autonomy and control over processes and outcomes.
OK, so it makes sense for companies involved in creativity to encourage a more informal relaxed atmosphere. But certainly this has no place in more serious endeavors like healthcare. Right?
Well, the professor mentions how medical teams like surgeons perform better, de-compress and return to work energized when they play together after a major surgery for example. He does not mention this specifically, but this is often true of team members who are debriefed or decompress together and are allowed to socialize after a major stressful event they have shared.
While processes are very important in healthcare, including clinical lab science, it might be worthwhile bringing a little play, innovation, flexibility and personal style into the workplace. Even allowing workspace personalization, and listening to music unobtrusively are more likely to make employees feel that work is not simply drudgery. Employees will feel more relaxed, less stressed, be absent less often, happier to be at work and overall might be even more productive. Think about it.