We Can Learn Plenty From Kids About Work

We all have our different ways of getting things done at work, but at the end of the day most of us battle the common issues of feeling like there are not enough hours in the day, possibly not really enjoying what we are doing and feeling burnt out by the end of the week. However there are plenty of 3-4 foot tall case studies running around which can teach us a lot if we simply take the time to look at how they engage with the environment and people that surround them. While (thankfully) kids don’t spend much time in an office environment, the principles that make them so effective at play can certainly translate into our work styles and provide some guidance in terms of how we can improve the way we work.

They Make Do With What They Have

At heart kids are really resourceful. While they will often pester their parents for the newest this or a bigger that, when they are left to their own devices they will always make do with what they have. If you sit back and watch kids play in the backyard for long enough, you’ll be amazed by how they use their imagination to turn even the most mundane household item into the perfect prop for their play. All too often at work, we are focused on whether we have the all of the resources and information to complete a given task rather than thinking a little outside the square and utilising what we have to get the job done. Granted this may take a little more creative thinking than just going back to your manager for more resources, but you’d be amazed by what can be achieved with what you already have at your disposal. 

They Love To Push Boundaries

As anyone who has kids knows, they are always looking to push the boundaries. If you tell your child that they can watch five more minutes of Peppa Pig, they’ll push for ten. If you ask them to only climb up to the second branch of the tree, you can rest assured they will manage to scale at least a few more limbs. While this pushing of boundaries can be frustrating for parents (who are generally trying to establish the boundaries), it speaks to the inquisitive nature of most kids and the fact they are always asking ‘why'. Too many people at work just blindly follow the procedure which has been laid out before them, never questioning whether it is actually the best method. Only through pushing the boundaries of how things have always been done, can things actually improve. As the old saying goes - "if nothing changes, nothing changes”, and a lack of change is not good for a business or its employees.

Everything They Do Has An Element Of Fun To It

Give them half a chance and kids will turn anything into a game or at the very least they will respond much better to a request when it has an element of fun to it. Anyone who has ever tried to get a five year-old to eat their peas or asked them to get in the bath knows the job gets much easier if you make it fun.  At the end of the day, kids just want to have fun and there is nothing wrong with that. Adults aren’t that far removed from kids in this way, however we seem to forget this when we get into an work environment. There is a significant amount of research which shows that adding a little fun to the workplace can dramatically increase the levels of engagement, collaboration and productivity of employees. You don’t need to completely gamify your workplace and turn it into a circus, however in most instances there is very little downside to adding an element of fun into workplace interactions and the upside can be significant. Beyond the obvious benefits for the business outlined above, adding some fun to the workplace will also often have a positive impact on the mental health of employees.

Everyday Is A Fresh Start

Remember how when you were a kid, the time between each Christmas felt like an eternity? This was in part because kids see each day as being so full of possibilities - opportunities to make friends, explore new adventures, learn new things - each day was such a big deal. But it was also due to the fact that as a kid you don’t carry baggage from one day to the next - which tends to link days together for us as adults.  They start each day afresh, in some cases almost as if the previous one never happened. Imagine if you were able to do the same with your workdays. How would leaving the stress of that unfinished report at the office or not worrying about the big presentation you have coming up in a few days time affect your mindset and the way you look at each day? The mentality which we take to work at the start of the day has a massive impact on the way we feel about our work and in turn our productivity and performance. Compartmentalising each day and treating them as individual parcels of time can be a great strategy for improving your mental health and avoiding burnout. 

Nothing that kids do as they go about their days’ is rocket science (it would be a bit of a worry if it was) in fact it is quite the opposite - it’s really simple. The issue is that as adults (particularly at work) we forget these basic elements of what makes us tick and just fit in with the crowd. Rather than trying to get kids to act more like us, it may be worth acting a little more like kids from time to time - maybe you could even try for an afternoon nap.

What else do you think we can learn from kids to improve the way we work?