There are multiple benefits to playing at work, getting out fo your comfort zone is one of them. Here’s why the use of play at work can be so empowering.
I talk a lot about the benefits of play at work for staff wellbeing, but I want to offer a different angle in this article; discomfort, in small doses, can be good for you!
There is usually a pattern to the rhythm of our playful team building/staff wellbeing workshops. Like the beginning of any workshop, there is some trepidation, but with the prospect of play at work, this is more pronounced.
It is this discomfort which I will focus on in this article; the very reason our name; Play, Act, Create, TRANSFORM.
Although of course when running a session, my ego wants everyone to be deliriously happy and full of praise throughout, a recent session got me thinking. It is these very moments of initial discomfort which enable the magic of play to take place.
Taking people out of their comfort zone – safety is key
Let me quickly clarify – I take the comfort and wellbeing of all participants very seriously. I am a skilled facilitator and can “read” situations to ensure that no participant feels unsafe in a way that could hinder their progress. The discomfort I talk about is for participants to step out of their comfort zones, and benefit from it.
Harnessing and transforming discomfort
So, back to the story. In a recent session booked for 20 participants, as the date approached the organiser kept emailing me – several participants had dropped out as they were now “too busy” to attend – more about that later – I offered to switch it to a lunch break and shorten the sessions – the ones who feel too busy need it the most!
Finally, on the day we still had a fair amount of participants, although the organiser was apologetic. We talked about people’s fear of the unknown – and the discomfort around being silly, feeling exposed. This is familiar territory for me and I reassured the organiser and the group that they were in safe hands. Although they felt nervous now, and may do unfamiliar exercises, they would never be pushed to do anything that they truly didn’t want to do, they had ultimate control. As long as they aren’t deliberately offensive to others, anything goes; the beauty of creativity and play is that you can’t get it wrong.
As I spoke I saw some shoulders loosen and drop a bit. But the person sitting next to me could not have been leaning further away from me if she tried. I tried to reassure her, though I knew that participating in play would do my job for me.
We played a gentle warm-up game where we each do an action and the others have to remember it. When it came to her turn, the woman hesitated. “I have no filter”, she said. I said, that’s fine, so what you need to do. She did a rude finger gesture. I said that’s great. We all did the rude finger gesture. We all laughed. The magic started to happen.
During the next game, the same woman took off her shoes; during the next game she spontaneously sat on the floor to be a part of a team “machine”. By then the power of playing together was in full flow and I knew the transformation was in effect. We could all feel it. It’s the part of my job I love the most. The transformation from discomfort into unbridled joy and laughter. This happens in every session I run and in this transformation lies the key to empowerment. To harness this joyful, creative, uniting potential the possibilities were endless.
Finding the practical uses for play at work
After the session the participants were buzzing and making the connections themselves.
“ We have two teams who have recently merged and don’t know each other very well – this would be a perfect way to get them working together” Integrating Teams. YES
“ We should do this with people from all departments so when you need something you actually know them” Cross Organisational Collaboration. YES
“ This would be great for Blue Monday” Staff wellbeing initiatives. YES
“ Imagine if we got the bosses doing this with us, it would be brilliant for everyone”. Humanising of management to staff and workplace culture. YES
Play works. The power of play is so palpable – so much to achieve while having fun together. What are we waiting for?!
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