If a time traveler arrived from a century ago in today’s world, they could be forgiven to think that our generation lives for nothing other than entertainment. For everyone alive today, career person, entrepreneur or student; entertainment is a huge part of our lives. It’s not just the individual’s doing though, everything about the entertainment industry has exploded to unimaginable proportions. There are endless TV shows, sports competitions, reality series, movies and games that are designed to appeal to every single taste and preference under the sun.
As many as there are choices of entertainment content, even more modes and channels exist through which we may consume them. From terrestrial TV and cable services, to internet TV such as Netflix, HBO, Amazon and the rest of them; suffice to say we are overwhelmed with choices of content and the time to actually go through it all. Additionally, these days there is no location constraint to the consumption of content as it glides effortlessly from our TVs to our computer screens, tablets and phones everywhere we go. One might even argue that we might have reached the peak entertainment age.
This raises important questions for the work environment and the people who run them: will all this entertainment hurt our productivity? Is there too much entertainment in our world today? Is it all bad for the workplace and the career individual? Are today’s workers placing too much focus on their social life and all the forms of entertainment they want to participate in? Many pieces have been written answering these questions in the affirmative and some of the logic is sound and their advice to limit and manage our entertainment consumption should be heeded.
Yet one could also argue that times have changed from that period not long ago when the worker who talked about their social life at work was considered a PURE (HR code for previously unidentified recruitment error). The battle for the legitimacy of work-life balance has been fought and won in favour of life; and entertainment in its various modes is one of the primary vehicles through which humans live and enjoy life. If you doubt this, start a random conversation about Game of Thrones at work tomorrow and see how animated a good number of your colleagues about who ought to be King of Westeros. Or face a cross section of the guys in the office and assert that Cristiano Ronaldo is better than Lionel Messi or vice versa and take a seat, just get a shield ready to defend yourself if it gets physical.
We are social animals and plan the time we spend outside of work around our social and entertainment activities. It is a big part of our life which we don’t really just turn off when we are at work, if we are being honest. The good news is that entertainment is not all bad such that managers would only be left with the option of blocking all the access points their staff can use to consume entertainment content during work hours. Given what an important part entertainment is in our lives, career people at all levels should seek to get some value from it as well, killing the proverbial two birds with one stone.
Building up social intelligence
One of the better circulated theories in recent times is that Emotional Intelligence represented as EQ is a better predictor of workplace effectiveness and success than Intelligence Quotient (IQ). Social intelligence (SQ) which is a measure of our ability to build and manage relationships has been further added as an even more accurate predictor especially used in tandem with EQ. Guess the tools around which social relationships are developed or nurtured – entertainment content and events.
This is usually a tough one for some highly focused career and business people to grapple with as they might be inclined to avoid such activities due to their busy schedules or other reason. There are ways around it though. Take for example football. If you’re not a fan i.e. you would be unable to pick out Manchester City’s shade of blue in comparison with Chelsea, it can be hard to sit through an entire game. Not to speak of the dozens of games in different national leagues around Europe and then the European competitions among clubs form this league. However, the key is to understand that you’re getting involved to be able to follow and casually participate in conversation, not to become an expert.
So you could catch a summary at the end of the week of by reading the highlights in the sports section of your favourite serious business paper and maybe watch replays of the main goals and activity on one of the internet connected screens you have around you all day anyways. In about thirty minutes or less, you can have the main gist of what you need to survive the football knowledge section of a business or work meeting with football buffs come Monday morning. Same thing whether it’s Game of Thrones or Keeping up with the Kardashians. You’re not trying to become a fan, just informed enough to be able to socially connect with other people and make it easier to get your work tasks done. Try it, it works.
Rebooting with some downtime
No matter how serious your work is, you would definitely benefit from some downtime not only at the end of the day but in the course of it. Thanks to technology, taking a quick break from work and watching or listening to something funny, entertaining or relaxing is much easier than ten years ago when you had to sneak into the office lounge or slot in a contraband cd into your office computer, hoping not to be caught.
When planned ahead, these quick entertainment breaks can give our work brains something to look forward as a reward for being productive and also get us refreshed for the next round of focused work. Just make sure not to get totally sucked into the entertainment for too long as it has been scientifically proven that the human brain prefers fun to work. This was discovered in a recent study conducted by this author binge watching several seasons of a show in a bid to finally catch up with the rest of the world.
Eating, listening to music, watching comedy skits online, scrolling through Instagram, catching up on the latest blockbuster movie or trending TV show. These are things everyone does without a reminder, appraisal or follow-up. Wouldn’t it be great to be able to tap some of that positive energy to make our workplaces better places to work? It can be done, and this is the thesis to some extent of team bonding events. That the team that plays together performs better together. Although many have tried, no one has ever successfully legislated fun activities out of the office environment. So rather than waiting till that elusive weekend retreat away, perhaps we should incorporate some of those things into part of the work environment and culture to allow people tap that fun and active side of them.
The point is this: we can use entertainment content and events as much-needed grease for the often abrasive and rusty wheel of workplace relationships and atmosphere. If in doubt, ask the likes of Google, Amazon and others who have gone to great lengths to include fun and games as an integral part of their offices. With all the information at their disposal, you can bet your top dollar it’s not just about fun and games.