Why “Play” is as Important as “Work”

Sfumato ParadoxResting to increase productivity is a paradoxical idea that seems to be gaining steam in today’s workplace – think Google, Facebook, Shopify – these companies attract the best talent with their workplace culture. But as we lead our teams (and run our own businesses), how are we meant to wrap our minds around the concept that playfulness, restfulness, and meditation actually lead to greater output?

Well, maybe I should readjust the idea . . . maybe playfulness, restfulness and meditation don’t lead to greater output, but they can most certainly create higher-quality output.

But, even if that’s true, can we accept it? After reading this post, will you send a company-wide email instructing everyone to go outside and enjoy the sunshine?

Right now in the news, there’s debate over whether we should work from home. Does it lead to unproductively? Can it stifle a company’s sense of teamwork?  Or, alternatively, does it create more time for reflection, restfulness, stress-reduction, and (the big issue) flexibility?

It’s certainly a paradox. Michael Gelb defines the “willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty “ by the name of Sfumato. It’s part of his Da Vinci based framework for genius. Sometimes the ability to go with the flow (i.e. respond to your team’s need to rest and have flexibility) might seem counterintuitive – but if you can see the results despite predispositions, then you’re doing pretty well.

“The greatest geniuses sometimes accomplish more when they work less.” Leonardo Da Vinci

Just recently I took a vacation to St Barts and sailed around the island. When you’re sailing there’s really no access to the internet. And so, for the first time in a long time, I didn’t work. It was all about the restfulness- having that time for silence within myself.

Having just returned from that trip, I’ve been receiving fabulous feedback. Everyone says that I have so much energy! I’m glowing from the tan and the rest. Even my biofeedback readings from my acupuncturist have shot up from a steady 40-45 to a high-energy 55-65. For me, rest was a very good thing.

There was a study that showed how taking a ten minute break (not that long), can increase people’s ability to recall information. Gelb calls that the reminiscence effect. And seriously, think about how you feel after a good night sleep vs. tossing and turning? You’re better for the rest. If we were able to tap into resting, napping, moving during the day . . . wouldn’t we be better for it?

In a world where days are broken down into minutes and tracked for billing clients – it’s little wonder we’ve cut out the space for playfulness and rest.

As Da Vinci said, “it is well that you should often leave off work and take a little relaxation, because, when you come back to it you are a better judge.” And this guy was one productive genius.

So in the debate over work and play, I’d say they exist for one  another. We get bored without the challenge, and we get tired without the rest. Put the two together – and actually encourage your team to forget about guilt, and instead find new ways to tap creativity – you’ll most likely see some very interesting results. Anything is possible from a stronger work culture, more creative problem solving, and a higher quality product or service . . . I believe that despite the paradox, we need to lean into this trend.

And hopefully one day, work and play won’t act against one another. Instead they’ll be key ingredients in the very best of success stories. (Oh wait. They already are!)

Till next time,


Camille Boivin is founder of Sister Leadership, bringing her knowledge of resilience, perseverance, and changing perception to others. Camille is currently accepting applications for the Women’s Executive Network  Senior Executives Wisdom Peer Mentoring program. Applications to this exciting and knowledge-sharing program are available here.

Read more from Camille as she aspires to  help women explode their success. For more posts and experiences, join Camille at her Sister Leadership page, connect on Twitter, and follow on Facebook.


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