Play and Learn at Work

Excerpt from “Pause. Breathe. Choose: Become the CEO of Your Well-Being” by Naz Beheshti (New World Library, copyright 2021).

Play and Learn at Work

Happy and healthy employees are more energized and engaged, which leads to improvement in job performance and better business outcomes. Employees who say they have supportive superiors are 1.3 times more likely to stay with a company and are 67 percent more engaged.

Fostering a culture of learning in the workplace goes a long way toward creating that kind of engagement, and learning and play go hand-in-hand in this effort. Just like play, learning is about staying connected to our creative Self and not slipping into autopilot.

The concept of the “learning organization” was introduced by Peter Senge in the 1990s. More recently, Harvard Business School professor Amy Edmondson has written extensively about the building blocks of a culture of learning, and she stresses some of the same things I focus on in my wellness programs.

Edmondson writes about creating time for reflection: “When people are too busy or overstressed by deadlines and scheduling pressures, their ability to think analytically and creatively is compromised. Supportive learning environments allow time for a pause in the action.” Mindfulness, learning, and wellness all should be part of an integrated approach.

A learning organization provides employees with resources to build new skills: This includes not just workshops, classes, and seminars but ongoing coaching and mentoring. This kind of investment in employees pays off in the long run by enhancing the ability to attract and retain top talent.

Finally, a learning organization gives employees the freedom to play with new ideas: to take chances and explore out-of-the-box possibilities. Google pioneered the 20% Project—this allows employees to spend up to 20 percent of their time on pet projects. That spirit of freedom and play has since been taken up by other companies. LinkedIn has [in]cubator, Apple has Blue Sky, and Microsoft has the Garage.

What all share is the idea of encouraging employees to adopt an entrepreneurial spirit and to think like their own startup. This empowers employees to be more creative and innovative while having fun.

According to a Virgin Pulse survey, new employees are 30 times more likely to leave if they do not believe they can realize their career goal, and 53 percent of employees say the top reason they love their company is because of interesting, challenging work.

Learning and growing are as essential to well-being as exercise, sleep, and nutrition. The more time a person spends learning something new, the better their cognitive function and overall mental well-being.

Invest in employees, and they will treat the company well. This helps propel any business to new heights, uncovering new opportunities for growth, innovation, talent, and success in a market that might otherwise be prone to the productivity trap.

Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, business magnate, investor, and philanthropist, spoke to Inc. magazine about the win-win situation of customer, employee, and company health and happiness.

“If the person who works at your company is 100 percent proud of the job they’re doing, if you give them the tools to do a good job, they’re proud of the brand. If they were looked after, if they’re treated well, then they’re gonna be smiling, they’re gonna be happy, and, therefore, the customer will have a nice experience. If the person who’s working for your company is not given the right tools, is not looked after, is not appreciated, they’re not gonna do things with a smile, and, therefore, the customer will be treated in a way where often they won’t want to come back for more. So my philosophy has always been: If you can put staff first, your customer second, and shareholders third, effectively, in the end, the shareholders do well, the customers do better, and you yourself are happy.”

When employees are treated with respect and are supported to actualize their goals—even those goals outside the workplace—they will be happier and more engaged, and subsequently, they will perform better. The business will thrive as a result.

It all starts with you. How will you choose to go about your day? How will you reboot your mind, body, and creativity? Simple. Make it a priority. Treat these non-negotiables as you would treat important meetings.

Pause.

Breathe.

Choose to allocate play and recovery time in your day.

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Naz Beheshti is the author of “Pause. Breathe. Choose. Become the CEO of Your Well-Being.” She is an executive wellness coach, speaker, Forbes contributor, and CEO and founder of Prananaz, a company that provides corporate wellness solutions for improving employee engagement and well-being, company culture, and business outcomes.