Play in Your Workday: 5 things you can start doing right now

Alicia Barnatchez

Program Manager Alicia Barnetchez discusses ideas for how you can put some play in your workday.

A confident salesman in suit standing in front of illustrated block letters saying work hard play hard concept

I’m no scientist, but from the research I’ve conducted (with one test subject: me) I have discovered the benefits of finding the time to play and have some fun in my 8-hour (or more) workday. There are many variations of what play can look like. What makes you laugh? Puts a smile on your face? Takes your blood pressure down? It doesn’t have to look like playing kickball in the company parking lot on your lunch hour (though, if that’s a possibility, why not do it?). It can be a moment or many moments over the course of your day.

My first job out of college, I worked at a fast-paced security firm, and I sat next to a colleague who had a whole collection of toy pigs on her desk. I’m not talking 5 or 6 pigurines (as I liked to refer to them)—I’m talking upwards of 50. They all had names, and I liked to imagine she named them at work in times of stress. She didn’t much like talking to anyone who came by her desk, but she did like talking to—and about—those pigs. She experienced true joy and fun in those moments. That’s how she found play. Finding moments of play at work is really about what floats your (or your team’s!) boat.

Here are some easy ways you can put a little play in your day:

  • Decorate your workspace with things that make you laugh and smile. I love Cher and have a Cher doll on my desk. I like to give her a new do every once in a while. She’s a great talking point when people stop by my desk. I also have some other fun little things on my desk, like some pens with fuzzy hair, a plant I forget to water (but still lives despite my neglect), and a superwoman figurine. As I type this, it’s occurred to me that I am well on my way to having my very own pigurine collection one day. Like I said, whatever floats your boat!


  • Try out your stand-up. Tell a joke, even if it’s bad. Does telling that joke make you laugh? Good! You’re on the right track. Your colleagues might think you’re a weirdo, but you’re having fun!


  • Play a game with yourself. When I’m approaching a deadline, I give myself a challenge: If I have something due at 12pm and its 9am, I will give myself 1 hour to complete my task. I set my timer on my iPhone and get to work. If I complete the task before the timer goes off, I reward myself. Sometimes I pat myself on the back, give myself a high-five, take a trip outside to get a coffee or some chocolate or just sit back and revel in my accomplishment.


  • Get some fresh air and move. I’m fortunate enough to have some organized healthy exercise time at work where we have fellow colleagues leading dance and workout classes. If that’s not the case where you work, make your own workout class. Do squats by your desk, or run in place, or do wall pushups. When people walk by and ask what you’re doing, just exclaim: “I’m having fun.” Do the 7-minute workout or jump rope in a break room. Go take a walk outside, breathe in the air, and listen to your favorite song. Give yourself that mental and physical break from staring at a computer or trying to solve what feels like an impossible problem. Just that little mental break can do wonders and help change your perspective (even scientists say so!).


  • Converse! Many of my colleagues like to talk out loud to themselves. I find it entertaining. So much so, that in my head (and sometimes under my breath) I am answering the questions they’re asking themselves aloud and participating in their conversations. We’ve had some really enriching talks (unbeknownst to them). Next time someone is talking to himself or herself near you, try it out.

So there you have it.  My scientifically proven researched methods of putting play into your workday.  Life is short and our workdays are long. Take the time to have some fun! It’s worth it in the end—but don’t take my word for it: check out what HBR has to say on the subject.

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Alicia Barnatchez

By Alicia Barnatchez