Love and Play at Work

by Ginny Hunneke

As Valentine’s Day approaches with all the rosey, chocolatey, kissey embellishments, are you thinking about your significant other—Work?

We didn’t think so! (at least not in that context)

It may be a stretch to consider Work as a significant other. Yet, most people with full-time jobs actually spend more time with Work than with their spouses, partners, children, parents and friends! (This could be a sore point for them, too!)

Love and Play at Work

Is it time to rekindle your love affair with your job?

According to a recent study by the Conference Board, 52.3% of Americans are dissatisfied with their jobs. Job dissatisfaction creates stress that can affect our health and our relationships with our friends and family.

Can loving your job make you a more lovable person?

Imagine leaving your office with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Envision ending the day feeling energized and enthusiastic.  Consider the possibility of collaborative efforts that encourage creativity and play at work… How would it feel to spend time with your loved ones after a day at the office like that?

When was the last time you left Work overwhelmed with positive feelings?

Would you describe your workplace as “dog eat dog“?  Employers often exploit stress to improve productivity. But that strategy deserves scrutiny—as does the expression “dog eat dog”!  Dogs work cooperatively in packs to hunt and provide food, and struggles to achieve dominance among individuals in the pack are never intentionally fatal.  

While some studies have shown that stress can increase strength and improve adaptive reasoning, the long-term fallout of constant stress actually decreases productivity—reliance on adrenaline produces excessive cortisol that reduces our emotional and physical resilience. Obesity, kidney disease, infertility, inflammation, and cardiovascular disease are just a few of the consequences of overactive adrenals.

“Those who play rarely become brittle in the face of stress or lose the healing capacity for humor.” Stuart Brown, MD, psychiatrist & play researcher

Valentines Flowers at Work

When we are in love, that personal pharmacy located in our brain dispenses oxytocin, serotonin, dopamine, and vasopressin—hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to our sense of well-being and connectednessYes, our adrenals do engage, but not to the high stress levels that are intended to propel us out of imminent danger.

When we are in love, we are energized, optimistic, resourceful, and flooded with feelings of confidence and camaraderie.  


Can you imagine feeling that way about Work?

It’s a stretch for some, but it is possible.  At The Fun Conspiracy, falling in love with work begins with play at work!  

Granted, play isn’t a magic wand that can turn that ultra-competitive co-worker into your new best friend and ally, or your tyrant of a boss into a gushing, raise-granting evaluator, but it can encourage a shift in attitude that changes how you view your circumstances. And truly, our attitude and the actions it shapes are the only things totally within our locus of control.

“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator

Play at work by making a game of it!

All games have rules, and the best games allow you to make adaptive changes to make them more fun and last longer. Check in and identify the rules of your workplace.  Are there any rules that can be altered to encourage creativity and collaboration?  Can you recruit teammates in support of mutual goals?  

It always helps to take an inventory of assets: What’s Work doing for you? On the playing field or in the board room, your awareness of the positive will guide your playful outlook. Notice the little things, too—joy can be found in the details!

I Love My JobOptimism and gratitude are awesome teammates and predictors of positive outcomes as we focus on what we want to cultivate in our lives rather than what we want to avoid. Leave anonymous post-it note appreciations for co-workers. Make a list of all the good you experience with Work and revisit and revise it often!

Introduce new strategies to your game plan designed to increase workplace smiles and laughs. Laughter produces a flood of stress-reducing and feel-good hormones that enhance relationships —at work and at home—by helping us be more empathetic, relaxed, creative, and connected with those around us.

Use your breaks to find and share a YouTube that invokes hysteria (or at least a few giggles). Do something slightly silly or out-of-character. This month, you might have fun with the holiday and celebrate your relationship with Work with a Valentine’s Card or chocolates!

Learn to enjoy the ride.

Alas, your relationship with this particular job may not be meant to endure the long haul. While considering your options, it remains within your power to make the best of it as long as you are there.

Whether or not you love your job, The Fun Conspiracy can help coach you through the rough spots to improve your relationship with Work.  We can also help you cultivate more creativity and enthusiasm in your workplace through team-building seminars and hands-on workshops.

“This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.” Alan W. Watts

Photo credits: Valentines 2014 by Corey Templeton | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, Sweet Valentine’s Day by Sean and Lauren | CC BY 2.0, Valentine’s Day Flowers by Eric Robinson | CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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