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Why Work Hard, Play Hard Culture Is Only Half-Way Toward The Destination

Written by: Ágnes Vad, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


Work hard, play hard company culture has been around for a long time – and it was the motto of my ex-employer too. I was in my mid-twenties when I joined this company and was already married but had no kids yet. I was in a life period where my focus was on succeeding with my career through a prestigious job. This company looked just perfect for doing so – even the motto on the office wall sounded attractive to me as I was so inner-ready to work hard to achieve my goals!

But what is this motto actually about? They say that the purpose is to build a positive company culture that embraces a driven work ethic and an environment that welcomes gratitude and joy in the workplace. In other words, it's a lifestyle or culture that embraces long hours of work followed by social and leisure activities such that individuals don't get much rest or time for quiet reflection.

In my understanding, work hard, play hard is an outcome of the last 10-15 years when employees get to have specific expectations of their workplace to keep them happy and provide a healthy integration of business and life. From the employees' perspective, there has been a growing need to find 'work-life balance, and work hard, play hard culture seems to be responding to that exact need.

A recent workplace survey also highlights something similar:

So now you know that a "work hard, play hard" workplace culture seems something that you're aiming for both as an employer and employee. And do you know what happens in such a culture?

  • You are absolutely authorized to work as long and as much you want. No one will limit you. In return, you are typically paid a bit above the average, the office building port service is 24/7, you have various chocolate and fruit selections available every week, you can order pizza from the company selected pizza company at a highly favorable price, and even the yoga instructor comes twice a week to ensure that your mind and body are both relaxed after the long working hours. Of course, it is not mandatory because if you want, you can hang on the company couch in the kitchen as long as you wish and socialize with the others playing table football or video games around you. Seems like a Canaan, doesn't it?

  • The dark side is that after so many working hours a day, people often feel exhausted and can get emotional due to stress and the high pace. Be sure that work hard, play hard culture will not support you with emotions; instead, they will offer you a complimentary 'happy-hour' voucher after working hours (meaning 6-7 PM). Everyone knows that some Margarita cocktail will help you relax, and you can come to work an hour later, no problem – since flexible hours are exactly about it (no one will highlight the that you have the flexibility to arrive not only later but leave last too…)

  • As work hard, play hard culture is about working hard, intellectuality plays a huge role. More precisely, intellectuality plays a dominant role over emotions or instincts too. Be sure that facts and figures should always support your decisions because problems can only be solved by proven methods, concrete facts, and only via logic. Neither your gut nor your emotions are allowed to enter the office with you, so leave them at home. Don't worry. And I mean, really don't worry…

  • On the bright side, leaving emotions and guts at home will help you to stay calm and relaxed when you recognize that logic only is not doing its work and speeding up the decision-making process but rather slowing it down as the 'consensus making' takes so much time when people don't get well the fact and figures. And typically, they don't as the data is limited or not ready or the audience has at least 1000 questions per line. Don't worry (again!), that's all-natural as everyone looks smarter when asks a smart question in front of others. This culture has even another motto related to this: there are no wrong questions, only wrong answers! It's better to keep this in mind when you need a fast decision. Give some weeks to these meetings, and you'll get your decision! Remember, you have flexible working hours to compensate for some delays quickly.

  • Or would you have a spontaneous idea to make it more productive and faster? Nope. Till you don't have enough facts and figures on a PowerPoint slide set, your idea will not be on the agenda of any meeting!

I hope you've been at least smiling by reading the above section as of course; all the above has been written with humor included. Nevertheless, some studies and surveys can identify the impact and effect of company culture. One of them is the Being at Full Potential method that can provide an overview and insight into a company's culture maturity state.

According to the Being at Full Potential Organization Maturity model 5 stages can be identified:

  1. Fear-based Culture

  2. Feel good-based culture

  3. Reason-based Culture

  4. Purpose-based Culture

  5. Service-based Culture

The Organization Maturity Model can provide an in-depth understanding about:

  • the characteristics of the different stages,

  • the possible root causes,

  • possible actions can be taken to improve

  • possible outcomes can be expected in a particular stage

Being at Full Potential Organization Maturity Model

It is essential to be aware that organizations can develop and learn through the different stages by implementing a more conscious learning attitude. Not every organization will go through each step, though, and only a few reach the Service-based culture level (level 5).

Through my example, you probably could also identify that then work hard, play hard culture is a unique characteristic of the Reason-based culture (level 3). Companies at this level typically also worked hard to get to this stage, and there are plenty of great things they could already have achieved through their hard-working people. However, the above model clarifies that level 3 is really not the end of either the company development or the personal/individual development journey.

Being at level 3 provides an excellent opportunity for any company to start focusing even more on unique strengths and talents, grow in self-leadership, accept and leverage more the gut/instincts and emotions, challenge the status quo, and develop a bit more a deep 'why' organization. Team, leadership, and individual coaching will support the organizations during this journey!

If you are interested in discovering your company's maturity index and understanding which stages you are at, please reach out to me for further details.

Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Ágnes Vad, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Ágnes Vad is a certified human potential and business coach with 18 years in marketing and 10+ years in cross-cultural leadership roles. Ágnes started her professional career in the multinational world in the marketing domain and built her thorough business acumen in parallel via the international leadership roles she was promoted to. She has been showing passion for working and leading people starting from the beginning of her career. She is a proud winner of the Leadership and Marketing Awards at her company. After 18 years, she decided to follow her passion and became a coach entrepreneur in 2019. In the last 2.5 years, she became an experienced and recognized professional in the coaching domain and has cc. 500 hours of coaching experience. She works with individuals and also with teams as a coach. She focuses on activating and maximizing human and leadership potential, emotional intelligence (EQ), mindfulness, and resilience.



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