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Podcast: Should work be fun?

Who says work has to be … well, work?

Given how much time we spend at work, shouldn’t it be fun … at least some of the time?

Our “Future-Proof” guest this week, Greg Kyte, thinks so.

Greg is the controller and general manager for the Utah Valley Physicians Plaza and co-host of the Thriveal CPA Network’s monthly podcast, along with Jason Blumer. By night, he’s a standup comedian – and a damned fine one, too. He’s built a bit of a following in the CPA world by MC’ing events like Xero’s annual user conference and the VeraSage Symposium. And it’s actually Greg’s work as a comedian, not as an accountant, that brings him to the show this week.

At the VeraSage Symposium in Dallas last November, Greg gave a great TED-style talk about the benefits and value of playing at work. It was a thought-provoking session, so I wanted to sit down with him and dig into what he means by “play at work” and how it makes life better for all of us.

In this conversation, we cover:


The power of play

Michelle Burke recently wrote an article for Huffington Post called “The Power of Play at Work,” which references a number of studies that point to the benefits of injecting play into the office.

Burke cites author and psychiatrist Stuart Brown, the founder of the National Institute for Play, who says, “When employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement and morale.”

“Not only does having a playful atmosphere attract young talent,” Brown says, “but experts say play at work can boost creativity and productivity in people of all ages. There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, (which) is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.”

On top of that, play at work has been shown to decrease absenteeism, stress, and health care costs. “When employees take time out to play,” Brown says, “it lessens the stress of work, which leads to less sickness, a more positive attitude, and a more energized work environment.”

So there are actually a lot of benefits to this idea of injecting play into the workplace.

Even Tom Peters, a leadership expert and the best-selling author of The Excellence Dividend, passionately promotes an idea he calls WTTMSW – Whoever Tries The Most Stuff Wins.

“WTTMSW requires a WTTMSW culture,” Peters writes. “And at the heart of that culture is a pervasive spirit of playfulness. To perhaps state the obvious, play in no way suggests a lack of seriousness of purpose. It speaks instead to teammates taking immense pleasure in the messy process of many approximations and wrong turns and dead ends on the way to market.”

The 3 most beneficial types of play at work
So play, in Tom Peters’s mind, is all about new stuff, innovation, and taking chances.

Greg Kyte would probably agree, but he takes it a step further by identifying three specific types of play that offer you the biggest bang for your buck:

  1. Competitive play, or in other words, structuring your business so that it functions more like a sports team.
  2. Artistic play, which is all about practice and production. As Greg points out: “Cover bands don’t change the world,” so create and then perform.
  3. Pure play, which Greg says is all about being courageous, creative, and subversive.

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