working hard, playing harder?

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In today’s workplace, it seems the work-hard-play-hard mentality permeates the environment. Does this style come from the millions of millennials who are rounding out the workforce (the last of whom are turning 21 years of age this year)? Or is it just a shift that has taken place throughout the years? What are the pros and cons? How do you have fun but continue to be productive?

In my experience, a balance between hard work and fun is vital to a productive work environment. In fact, I feel it’s the best way to get through the day, the task, the chores. I’ve found when employees feel comfortable relaxing, they seem to be able to buckle down and work harder. They also produce better work, something any boss would want.

Taking time to unwind in the workplace tends to facilitate more productivity in the short- and long-term. When it comes to working hard and playing hard, pros outweigh cons — if employees strike a good balance between the two. In some cases, certain people abuse the relaxed work environment and ruin it for the rest of the team. However, when employees as a whole value hard work and a good time, it encourages others to follow their lead.

Where did this mentality come from? I have observed this value seems to be instilled into younger employees more than older colleagues I have worked with. Millennials tell me they need time to break from the daily grind to wind down and breathe. The break allows them to really focus and work hard when the time comes. Overall it allows for a more productive environment when employees don’t feel overwhelmed and unable to relax.

Conversely, the baby-boomer generation, from which I hail, tends to have a more work-hard- work-harder mentality. It’s akin to a sprinter vs. a long-distance runner; they’re both going to reach their goal but styles and strengths differ.

Moreover, the combination of baby-boomers and millennials can generate an interesting environment, where each generation collaborates strengths and overcomes weaknesses. With this, millennials have things to learn from the older generations, and older generations can learn from the younger generation as well.

As long as we are working closer than ever before, it’s logical to agree on when to play and when to put your nose to the grindstone (#preboomerterm). The people that decipher this difference are more productive (and more fun). Here are six keys I’ve found that work in the generation of collaboration:

  1. The deadline is king. When you have a pressing deadline, make sure you make that deadline. Do all you can to make that deadline. Come early. Stay late. Work weekends. This will establish your brand faster than anything I’ve seen. Show integrity (you do what you say) by meeting and beating your projects’ deadlines.
  2. Set an early deadline. The secret of secrets is to set an early deadline. If the project is due Friday, act as if it’s due Thursday at 10 a.m. Because you’re going to have to go through the steps anyway, why not complete assignments early? That gives you nearly a full day to mull things over and make your assignment better.
  3. Pace yourself. Because you can’t run faster than you have strength, it is actually counterproductive to continue to work until exhaustion. Those who try see mistakes increase. While learning tennis, I had a wise instructor who said, “When you’re tired, stop. Rest. If you don’t you will become sloppy. Then you will develop sloppy habits.” How does that apply at work? If you have been working all morning and need a break, take a break, laugh a little and chat with friends. It will not only help you to wind down and let off some steam, it can recharge you to generate more ideas for solutions.
  4. Avoid the trap. Don’t be duped into postponing deadlines or important assignments. That only leads to cramming to meet deadlines in the final hours, which doesn’t bring out your best work. Look at it like this: the days of cramming ended with college; you deserve better.
  5. Communicate. Blame it on pride, embarrassment or inexperience, too many workers tend to hide problems when problems surface. They think the boss will think less of them so they ignore the issue. Better approach: Be proactive. Tell the boss. Own it. Offer solutions. Show how you have corrected the problem. That act alone brings worlds of respect from the boss.


By tim brown
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