There’s working, smirking, even twerking, but have you heard of the newest craze, plerking?

Sunil Tulsiani, former policeman turned real estate millionaire who co-founded Canada’s largest real estate investment club, Private Investment Club, wants us to Plerk. Sunil’s formula is simple: play + work = plerk.

Play at work? Sounds like an oxymoron. However, Michelle Burke, communication and workplace strategist and co-founder and president of The Energy Catalyst Group, challenges us to reconsider our traditional thinking. What if play could enhance job performance? What if instead of thinking about work and play as opposites, we considered play and work as cohesive, and their opposite as boredom?

Those of us born into Generation X and before haven’t been taught about the value of play for adults, especially in the workplace. Most of us would describe someone who spends time “playing around” at work as off-task, unproductive and unfocused. According to the research on play, however, we need to update that perspective. Bringing an element of play into the workday can actually create highly productive, super creative, more motivated employees.

Sound too good to be true? Who wouldn’t want to weave more time to play into their life, especially at work?

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, said that, “when employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement and morale.”

Google is a prime example. The search giant’s employee-centered philosophy is to “create the happiest, most productive work environment in the world.” And it’s paying off. PayScale’s data highlighted Google’s boastworthy 86 percent employee satisfaction rate, an impressive statistic considering that a 2014 Gallup poll showed that two-thirds of Americans feel unsatisfied in their job.

Research shows that companies that endorse plerk are also reaping the benefits of decreased absenteeism, decreased stress and lowered healthcare costs.

We spend approximately one-third of our lives working. Numerous studies show that the biggest source of stress among American adults is work-related. Too much stress impacts our health and the quality of our lives. Play is a practical tool we can use to deal with frustration and lower stress. When we play, our brain releases endorphins, our feel-good hormones that counteract the debilitating effects of cortisol, boost our mood and reduce pain. According to Dr. Brown, play also stimulates nerve growth in the portions of the brain that process emotions and executive function

Adding a giant trampoline in your office may not be practical. What can you do to add an element of play to your workplace? Use your imagination! Get a group of creatives together and brainstorm. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Get outside. Designate a place where people can meet and talk during lunch. Keep a football or frisbee on hand to toss around.
  • Instead of refilling the coffee machine during the 2 p.m. downtime, turn on some dance music.
  • Designate a “connection corner” where people are free to go when they need help brainstorming solutions or want to share successes.
  • Host a weekly breakfast or lunch club where employees bring in a sample of a favorite (healthy) recipe to share, and discuss the hottest new movies, books or TV shows.
  • Create a weekly “something fun to know about me” email where your staff, including those who travel or work from home, take turns sharing a funny or embarrassing story.
  • Play a little happy hour beach ball. Toss one across cubicles and see how long you can keep it off the floor.

These may or may not work for your business. The whole idea is to create an environment where it’s OK to unplug, where mental breaks and relationship building are encouraged. Our world is constantly in go mode, and our relationships are more and more electronics-based. Creating a workplace that values communication, relationship building and stress management can help balance the scale and make a big impact in your company’s overall performance.

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” — Nobel prize winner George Bernard Shaw

For more stress management strategies or information on how play can improve your health and well-being, email me at or visit