The Millennials Have Arrived! Why You Can’t Hold Off On Leisure Culture Any Longer

Written by Paul Marchildon, on June 10, 2014.

Meet the dullest people in the world – and it’s not your management team discussing financials. No, the dullest folks, according to anthropologists, are the Bainings of Papua New Guinea. They have no myths or festivals; they discourage exploration and punish play. They work. When they talk, they talk about work. When they reminisce, they reminisce about work. When they dream…. A culture built entirely on an “all work, no play” philosophy. Does this sound less like anthropology and more like your 9-5 (or 8-4, 6-3)? 

All Work and No Fun?

That can be a tough one. You can’t take a 5-minute meditation break or work from home when you’re on an assembly line. Back in my well-spent youth, I worked one summer at a Labatt’s brewery: 6:35am to 2:35pm, 3 -15 minute breaks. Forget flextime; we didn’t even have lunchtime! For these types of jobs, employees need to be at their stations at prescribed times. That’s just the way it is.

Employees Lacking Motivation?

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

At the same time, any company, regardless of industry, can offer leisure incentives. In fact, there’s all the more reason (and all the more benefit) when you have fixed work times and spaces. I think my Labatt’s brethren would agree.

There’s the obvious: company funded after-work softball league, reimbursement for gym memberships or lunchtime wellness programs. If money is tight, perks don’t have to cost a dime. What about allowing employees to bring their dogs to work or create a coffee shop environment in your office so people can mix up their java and mingle with their coworkers?

Whatever the initiative, employees and companies alike benefit. And not just from the leisure activities themselves, but from the mindset. The after-effects of this cultural shift include increased productivity, better focus and concentration, higher morale and employee satisfaction.

Work is Work

What if the problem, though, is the company itself? The old school mentality – You’re at work to work. Leisure is for later – is going to die hard. You have to convince the powers that be that there are real, measurable advantages to incorporating a leisure culture. The studies are out there – and the proof will be in their future applicants.

If I’m a potential employee, I wouldn’t apply to companies that did not value leisure. That’s me: I’m a leisureologist. But a whole new generation is descending on the workforce, and they want “work-life integration.” Not “work-life balance,” because they recognize that work and life are not separate entities. That means, yes, they’ll answer emails or take work home with them – but they also expect that they can bring “life” to work with them. If companies want top talent and committed employees, they have no choice but to get in the game.

Making Culture a Line Item

In his blog, Go To Marketing Guy, Craig Morantz, writes: “Culture is king…spending time on creating, building and supporting a strong culture is as important as your marketing plan. Culture needs a line item in your budget.”

Companies need to realize the value of a leisure culture, and then budget for it. When considering overall employee compensation, it is critically important to reserve funds for employee motivators and incentives. How you do that is up to you – and to the employees you hope to attract and retain.

Progressive companies, for instance, are beginning to offer flexible benefits. They might say, “You can have a full dental plan or an extra week of vacation.” A millennial might brush, floss, and take the extra week. Or he may not, and that’s his prerogative under a “pick and choose” type of system. Flexible or customizable packages allow employees to choose the benefits they want and which will motivate them. At the same time, they allow employers to meet the demands of an increasingly diverse workforce.

Benefits can go beyond extra vacation days or flextime. Schools Financial Credit Union in Sacramento, for instance, one-upped the “bring your dog to work” idea and encourages parents to bring their newborns to work.

They’ve found the babies cause few distractions, and parents can carry about 75% of their normal workload. Cheaper and more efficient than hiring a temp. How much more seamlessly can you integrate work and life? The key is for companies to ensure they cater to their employees and recognize that not every one of them has the same needs.

When employees do nothing but work, talk about work, think about work, go home and dread work, there’s no way companies can build a strong, sustainable culture. Instead, they create the dullest of workplaces and put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

The Bainings have managed to survive without relaxing, taking time to recharge, or incorporating leisure into their days. But at what expense to their culture and heritage? At what cost do companies encourage, or enforce, “all work, no play” atmosphere? Today, fewer and fewer people will stand for a work “ethic” that devalues leisure and work/life integration. Are you a Baining? Now’s the time to speak up and start a leisureology revolution.

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.