As it becomes increasingly clear that remote work will remain a mainstay of how we do business, maintaining a healthy work/life balance is becoming more difficult, and more necessary, than ever before. As the line between work and life continues to blur, it is becoming crucially important that people spend time doing activities outside of the office that keep them engaged and motivated at work.
Having a breadth of interests and activities that occupy your time is bound to have a positive impact on your wellbeing, whether it simply distracts from office woes or is genuinely joyful. We know there are well-documented benefits to maintaining a healthy and fulfilling life outside of the office, but there are hobbies and activities that go beyond improving this balance and actually help you improve your performance at work.
I’m not talking about an average hobby used to relax and unwind after a long work day like watching television (although the relaxing effect can help make you a better and more efficient business person). Rather, I’m talking about activities that present a challenge — ones that require commitment, perseverance and skill development to be properly enjoyed.
From team sports, to knitting, to learning a new language, there are obvious benefits to hobbies that force you to rise to an occasion. For one thing, they inspire you to stay competitive (whether that be with others or with yourself). For another, the better you get at them the more likely they are to come in handy for your business in ways both expected and not.
One more obvious example of this phenomenon is learning a new language. Abstractly speaking, it teaches important memory and comprehension skills that subconsciously influence the way you do business. But, it is also a very practical tool for communications and expanding your client outreach.
A common misconception
Although it might not come as much of a surprise that learning a language can improve both your personal and professional life, you might not expect a more seemingly frivolous hobby such as playing video games to have a similar effect.
There is a common misconception that video games are counterproductive. People often think of them as a massive waste of time — something done solely for the purpose of having fun with no inherent value or deeper meaning. For those who subscribe to this way of thinking, consider this: Dedicating time to relaxation and enjoyment makes you more productive in the long run, and focusing all your energy on work can lead to burnout.
The surprising benefits of video games
The truth is, however, the benefits of video games stretch far beyond helping you decompress. Recent research in the journal Royal Society Open Science shows that gameplay is positively correlated with wellbeing, and can have a positive impact on mental health. This can therefore make you better at your job.
Just as importantly, video games teach actual skills that are extremely valuable in building and running a business. Learning how to fail and how to build expertise through consistent effort are two fundamental components of video gameplay that all entrepreneurs need to learn in order to succeed.
The development of these two skills is essential for success in nearly all video games, but there are a breadth of other surprising business skills to be learned from particular game types. A useful example of this can be seen in multiplayer games like World of Warcraft. Because they require coordination between multiple discrete players in order to win, they teach important lessons about collaboration, information dissemination, efficient communication and even loyalty.
Finding your own “video game”
Although to many it might seem exciting that they can improve their business acumen while killing zombies or tending to a virtual garden, video games definitely aren’t for everybody. If the thought of staring at a screen for even a second after finishing the work day fills you with dread, you’re not alone.
In lieu of World of Warcraft and the like, there are plenty of “video game”-esque hobbies that you can enjoy. Look for challenging, skill-based but low-mental-effort activities such as painting or gourmet cooking. They can be a nice way to decompress and relax, but their iterative nature also teaches the importance of consistent efforts to achieve a goal, much like video games do.
Get your employees involved
Whether you start playing video games or have just come up with your own video game activity to take their place, you’ll notice very quickly just how valuable the experience is for your business. And, perhaps the only thing more exciting than an entrepreneur getting better at what they do, is their employee getting better too.
By encouraging your employees to adopt the video game “habit,” you’re encouraging them to become more adept business people. The fundamental skills learned through these activities, not to mention their contribution to a healthier lifestyle, will benefit employees in many roles.
They’ll be more productive and happier, which will lead them to create more meaningful work. It goes without saying that better performance from your employees will mean greater success for your business. So, next time you see an employee playing Candy Crush on his or her phone at the office, don’t get too upset.
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