By Michael Gunther

The mantra “Work Hard, Play Hard” is one that you’ve probably heard more than once in your lifetime, but is it one that you actually live by? Personally, I have the “Work Hard” part down no problem; but the “Play Hard” had been more difficult to incorporate consistently. Since studies show that a good work/life balance can lead to higher productivity – even when less hours are devoted to work time – businesses can clearly benefit from employing a program to encourage a work/life balance.

When determining how to implement such a program at Collaboration, I thought back to my childhood and how my parents truly lived by this motto. Raising 17 kids, you would think they were so busy working and managing the household that they wouldn’t have much time to play. While my parents worked very hard, they made playtime just as much a priority, which taught me three key lessons to balance Work and Play.

Exercise Your Body as Well as Your Brain
My Dad took the time to teach all 17 of us to play tennis. He would load us all in the Dodge Maxiwagon after school and take us to the local high school or park to play. Like a swarm of bees to honey, we filled all the courts. After exercising our minds all day at school, it was a nice balance to get outside, connect with each other, and exercise (I definitely got my fair share, chasing down all my missed shots).

Play is an Appointment – Keep It on Your Calendar
Every Sunday was family day – no matter how hard the past workweek or the schedule for the coming week. We would pack a lunch and search for a new place to spend the day together. I grew up in California, where the parks, beaches, and even museums were free; my parents never let lack of finances be an excuse to miss our time together. A lot of our time was spent outdoors, and our picnics, hikes, and games allowed us to bond as a group.

Release Energy and Relieve Stress
No TV during the week…yes, even after we finished homework. We thought it was torturous at the time, but now I recognize that the alternative – time spent on activities – was an outlet for our creativity and energy. Whether we were reading, playing games, or going on new adventures outside, we were enjoying playtime together; releasing energy and relieving stress. This downtime made us more refreshed, focused, and prepared to conquer our next day at school.

Work Hard, Play Hard for Business
Imagine what creative and energetic work environments businesses can create by implementing these three tactics. Ask yourself, when was the last time you did something active or social, outside of the office with your team; let people leave early on a beautiful day to enjoy the afternoon; or met with key members of your team without any distractions to discuss how things are going?

At Collaboration, we’ve been implementing new initiatives to encourage a better work/life balance. Most recently we hired a yoga instructor to come into our office to lead Yoga Fridays. Our employees are very excited about starting the Yoga classes, and I would venture to say that we all will be less stressed and more mentally prepared to accomplish our next tasks or goals. In addition, our firm’s Partners meet once a month outside of the office for an hour and a half. With no agenda, we have a free-flowing conversation about things we have seen or heard from our employees and our clients, and from the marketplace. Some of our most creative ideas are generated during this time without the distractions of the office.

The Bottom Line
By encouraging your employees to add some Play Hard to their Work Hard and providing them with the resources to do so, you will create a more productive and innovative work team and work environment. The real challenge: you’ll have to live by this motto too!

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