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How to bring fun back to work with IBM and Ingram Micro

October 07, 2021

How to bring fun back to work with IBM and Ingram Micro
powered by Sounder

Burnout is a very real thing in today’s work environment. Employees are overworked, stressed and mentally fatigued.

It’s time to shake things up.

In today’s episode, we’re talking about bringing fun back to the workplace.

Shelby Skrhak welcomes John Cohn, IBM Fellow, to the show to talk about:

  • The symptoms of mental fatigue
  • Some things IBM does to spark fun
  • Why embracing a sense of play makes a difference

Mental fatigue

Due to the monotony of video call after video call and lacking the novelty of surprising social interactions day after day—the type that used to occur in the physical workplace—we’re all experiencing some degree of mental fatigue.

How does that manifest?

“I think people are getting to a point where they’re literally just phoning it in,” John says.

There’s a distance that is growing between us and our work, and between us and the people with whom we work.

How do we fix this?

Some ideas from IBM

John and his team at the MIT-IBM Watson AI lab have tried a few different tactics to shake up remote work.

During video calls, they’re given more room to wander off topic.

“We’ll be on topic for a while and then end up, in some weird way, having deeper personal conversations,” John says.

In addition to your run-of-the-mill video work meetings, they’ve attempted to create more space for these deeper conversations with video lunches as well.

What John has found is that people are remarkably available for these types of conversations in a way that perhaps they weren’t during our busy, in-person, pre-pandemic work lives.

John has a working theory on why this is the case.

“The pandemic has created a huge amount of space in our lives,” he says. “We’re not traveling, we’ve got all this downtime, and people are sharing the crazy stuff they’re doing to not go crazy.”

The pandemic has given us this great excuse to do things we wouldn’t normally do because of fear of failure or judgment. We’ve cut ourselves some much-needed slack.

Why play is powerful

Having time to indulge our hobbies and our passions has unlocked something—our “collective mischief.”

“Everyone’s trying to get away with a little bit of something,” John says. “It’s tugging on our playfulness and mischief-making.”

According to John, mischief is a big motivator. Mischief, after all, makes way for innovation.

When leaders are trying to micromanage and keep people strictly on task, that spark of innovation gets snuffed out.

“If you give people a sense of leniency,” John says, “it will allow people to be more innovative and more productive.”

Ultimately, it’s allowing people to engage in things other than work that helps us learn more, that makes us work better as teams, and that helps us sell better.

Learn more at imaginenext.ingrammicro.com/ibm.