We came to work, stayed to play

It’s the oldest saw for many employees in the business up here: ‘I came for winter but I stayed for the summer.’

Which could easily be expanded in general for many workers here: ‘I came to work but I stayed to play.’

This sums up a key element that employers, personnel managers and bosses in general might want to consider as the ponder how to keep their employees happy and on the job: Let them play.

In fact, don’t just “let” them play, make them play. In a way, almost, force them to play, or at least make it so easy for them to play that they will. And usually, once they play in the great outdoors up here in Grand County, they’ll see why so many visitors come to visit.

And perhaps they’ll realize why they should stay. And if they want to stay, they are much more likely to stay and work, too.

It may seem odd to many people but lots of workers come here to the county to work because there is attractive pay and the promise of regular work. Many don’t come to ski. Many don’t come to fish. Many don’t come to hike. They come to work.

But study after study reveals that workers who work all day and have no play become disenchanted, bored, over-worked and embittered. Those types of workers leave, adding to the already immense problem locally (and across the nation, too) of not having enough employees to hire.

What can a business owner do about this? Make play an integral part of the job by offering free “tokens” or “comps” for playing in the great outdoors that we enjoy so much here in Colorado. And perhaps give workers a four-day week so they can really enjoy these comps for play.

Many businesses here already offer free lift tickets or passes for their workers. This is a tactic that works well to create employee loyalty and satisfaction. But the free ski pass can be expanded to a wide range of other opportunities.

Why not team up with a fishing guide who needs a service offered by the business to offer free trips to employees in exchange, perhaps, for a free service or product offered by the business? These “play perks” don’t have to cost cash is the point.

What about bartering for a horse back trip for a group of employees who are in the same department? Not only would this be getting them out to play and enjoy the outdoors, it could also help to build team spirit and better office or work cohesion. It would also expose employees to something that could become a new past time or hobby. If those new past times rely particularly on being here, then there’s a better likelihood that employee will stay here.

For businesses that can’t offer a barter, perhaps they could trade in a different way. Maybe a marina could give away boat tours or trips on one of our lakes to a neighboring business’s employees. And then maybe the employees in that neighboring business could offer discounts on lunches or dinners or whatever they have to offer.

Perhaps groups of employers in Grand County create a pool of tokens for free gifts to employees of other businesses. Create a “play pool” on this web-site so people can see what’s available. Let a restaurant’s employees take advantage of these tokens, such as for a free guided flyfishing trip, in exchange for a token for a free appetizer or entrée at that restaurant.

The possibilities for these type of employee exchanges are endless.

So for those struggling employers hoping to keep their employees on the job, it pays to remember: Many workers came here to work, but they stayed to play.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

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