How to Incorporate Leisure Into the Workplace to Increase Productivity

Written by Paul Marchildon, on February 10, 2013.

Those silly millennials: they want to have fun at work! They’re asking to work at home or from their local coffee shop so they can get an extra hour of sleep. They want to tweet from work or go to Zumba at lunch. Worst of all, they’re starting to rub off on the Gen Y and Xers, who might start demanding flextime. Don’t they know work is for work? Anything related to happiness, wellbeing, fun…that’s what Saturdays and Happy Hours are for. Those not-so-silly millennials are on to something though… The idea that “work” must take place during prescribed hours and that “leisure” must take place outside of those hours is not only outdated, it’s costing companies in terms of both monetary and human capital.

A study of over 19,800 people found that productivity takes a big hit when employees don’t get adequate sleep, exercise, or nutrition. Unhealthy eating alone is linked to a 66 percent increased risk of productivity loss. So what? They’re here 9-5, Monday – Friday. That’s work time. When they sleep, eat, and hit the gym is their problem. This is the prevailing attitude among employers, but as you can see, it’s not a terribly productive one! Leisure and work are states of mind that intertwine, and it benefits both the employees and the business. Allowing leisure into the workplace may be the solution to productivity problems.

Employees Lacking Motivation?

Paul Marchildon, an experienced Leisureologist, can work with you and your team to increase productivity by incorporating leisure into the workplace.

The notion that people have to work set hours on set days is one that is deeply rooted in the North American work ethic. There is often resistance to alternatives such as flex hours or telecommuting. The idea that people have to be present at work, under the watchful eye of Big Brother, to avoid tendencies such as checking email extraneously and for non-business purposes, taking a walk around the office or daydreaming for five minutes.

That’s the way it is, but it’s not the way it should be. While some people do work optimally under a traditional work schedule, many don’t. Companies have to measure results, not hours in the shop. At Shopify, for instance, employees come and go. There are no set work hours; just a job description, goals, and objectives. They get their work done. How and where is their business.

Companies like this are reframing how hours are set and the expectations around how these hours are spent. People can be at work for twelve hours per day and be unproductive for the last four. They are often tired and unproductive the next day. Why not allow them to come in mid-morning or leave early or skip Monday’s altogether while they work at home? Why not permit them to go to the gym mid-day? While we’re at it, why don’t we also provide them healthy food so we can boost that productivity!

Shopify provides healthy meals to their staff and manages to power tens of thousands of ecommerce sites around the world, including those run by Amnesty International, the Foo Fighters, Rovio, and Nintendo. There is a key piece of the puzzle though – Shopify’s people want to do their work. They’re not at work to put in the time; they are there to do something.

We have to move away from the idea of prescribed timeframes and activities that are supposed to be fit within them. Employees, particularly the up-and-coming Gen Ys, increasingly want this type of flexibility, and they will return the favour with increased productivity, quality, and loyalty to the organization.
Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.