If You Want to Enjoy Work, Try to Be More Playful

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Work-life balance: the thing you’re always striving for, but often come up a little short on. And in your defense, leaving the office at a reasonable hour, not checking your work email as soon as you wake up, and taking “me” time are hard habits to instill.

So what about work-play balance? Does that take it a step further? And what if it was your job to make that happen?

For Sam Hauskens, it is. His “office job” is located at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, and as Director of Leadership Development at Caesars Entertainment, Sam is well acquainted with blending the worlds of work and play.

A great deal of Sam’s job is closely tied to the company’s mission statement: Inspire Grown-Ups to Play. Not only does this mantra pertain to Caesars’ guests, but it’s also a deeply ingrained element of company culture.

Work-Play Balance

“Work-play balance”— a form of work-life balance rooted in the idea of having fun at work rather than relegating playtime to after-hours—is found throughout the hospitality industry. But at Caesars, Sam explains, it’s more than just a catchphrase. On any given day, employees may find themselves shooting hoops into a mini basketball net, participating in ping-pong or slot tournaments, or heading out to visit to one of Vegas’ famous splash parks with co-workers.

“We do a lot of ‘formal’ play,” explains Sam. It’s a structured component of new-hire orientation, during which scavenger hunts or prize incentives may be part of the onboarding process. Each Caesars property, Sam adds, has its own twist on how it promotes a playful attitude—for example, different “buzz sessions,” during which customer-facing employees get pumped up to hit the casino floor. At one location, employees may play a quick dice game; at another, you may find people doing silly jumping jacks before going out to interact with guests.

There are also plenty of opportunities for lightheartedness on the corporate side of the company, too—such as the time when a couple employees attempted to start the wave during a town hall meeting. That didn’t go off as smoothly as the initiators had hoped, muses Sam. (Then again, does the wave ever work out as planned?)

“We’re a company that knows how to do business, but we’re very open to impromptu ways to have fun at work,” he says.

There’s method to the madness: Happy employees make for happy guests. It’s all interconnected. “We know that when we have happy employees having fun at work, it’s likely they’re going to deliver great service to our guests,” says Sam. “To anyone who wants to work in any hospitality organization, you should always be able to talk about your job and how it helps [encourage] play.”

“It’s hard to work in the hospitality industry and be a curmudgeon,” he adds.

Adopting such an attitude is much easier when your office is steps from the strip. “If I want to take a mental break, it’s a one-minute walk to go visit the most iconic casino in the world,” Sam says.

How’s that for balance?

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We work & play in Las Vegas, Nevada

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Shaping Culture by Seeking Out Influencers

Sam suggests the key to successful culture-shaping is to find company “influencers”—in other words, the employees who are best able to motivate and inspire the larger population. These are the people to seek out in when planting the seeds of a new culture-defining initiative.

At Caesars, these influencers tend to be supervisors. When coming up with a new program, Sam says his team first asks if the front-line employees will embrace it. If the answer is likely no, they reevaluate.

“We look for the place where the ‘rubber meets the road’ and where the boots are on the ground,” he says. “If we can’t get our supervisors to embrace [an initiative], we won’t see the results we want. If we can get them moving in the right direction, we know we’ll have a successful program.”

Sam believes Inspire Our Best, a culture-strengthening initiative consisting of learning modules and content that will help employees live Caesars’ mission, vision, and values will be an example of such success; he hopes to roll out the majority of the program in early 2018.

“The project will reach every corner of our organization and will remain a part of our internal language forever,” he says, touching upon one of his main points of pride in his role: encouraging others to do meaningful work.

“What could be more interesting than guiding the way 60,000 people inspire one other?” he says.

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