The Coaching Effect Blog

The Coaching Effect Blog

    The Importance of Play at Work

    by Sarah Wirth / October 21, 2011
    Child development experts have long espoused the importance of unstructured play for kids, as it is essential to the development ofSarah Wirth company culture an the importance of play at work children’s brains and bodies.  According to Dr. David Elkind, author of The Power of Play, “Decades of research has shown that play is cru­cial to phys­i­cal, intel­lec­tual, and social-emotional devel­op­ment at all ages. This is espe­cially true of the purest form of play: the unstruc­tured, self-motivated, imag­i­na­tive, inde­pen­dent kind, where chil­dren ini­ti­ate their own games and even invent their own rules.” In short, play encourages learning, imagination and growth in children.  And guess what? It does the same thing for adult. 

    Somewhere between the sandbox and the boardroom, most of us stop playing.  We have jam-packed calendars to stay on time.  We have CRMs to track and remind us our activities.  We have strategy meetings to identify our goals and tactics.  But what we don’t have is open time to just learn, create, explore and dream.  And this is essential for engaging people’s brains, for re-energizing their souls, and for inspiring their hearts.  In essence, play is necessary for people function at their highest level in a work environment.

    Google is famous for their “Twenty Percent Time,” where they allow their engineers to spend one day a week on work that is not directly related to their job responsibilities.  This is time for them to explore a special project that they believe will help Google customers or employees.  This is essentially company-sanctioned unstructured play.  And in the same way that this type of play drives creativity and learning in children, it can have this same type of impact in the work environment.  Indeed, Google can point to new products that have specifically resulted from its Twenty Percent Time.  While this is impressive, direct results aren’t necessarily the most important benefit of play.  It is how play time impacts your employees’ minds and attitudes that can really yield long-term benefits.

    Play time re-energizes your employees. It unclutters their busy minds.  It opens them to think more creatively. It gives them the opportunity to consider the possibilities. And this type of freedom and investment can yield numerous benefits, including higher employee morale, a more engaged workforce and increased employee retention.  And ultimately, this will benefit your business even if you don’t come up with the “next big thing” idea.

    So consider having your employees set aside some time each week for exploring a new idea.  Plan a team retreat where you engage in an activity like painting to get the creative juices playing.  Make it a job responsibility to learn and dream.  Inject some play into your work!


    Sarah Wirth is Vice President of Member Services at EcSELL Institute.  She works closely with EcSELL Institute members on the implementation and interpretation of various our sales management assessment tools, including COMPASS, Through The Eyes of the Sales Rep, and 360 Collaborative Leadership.

    Tags: Culture

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    Sarah Wirth

    Sarah Wirth

    Sarah Wirth is the President of EcSell Institute and has over 20 years of experience in employee assessment, leadership development, sales executive coaching, and customer service. She has presented to executives from across the globe with organizations such as Mercedes Benz, Estee Lauder, Ritz Carlton, Cheesecake Factory and many more.

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