• Greg Ellis

Calling BS on Work Hard Play Hard

Over the last few months there's been some damning indictments in the news of the "work hard, play hard" culture. There was another one just today.

"Work hard, play hard" is being used as an excuse for drunken gropey behaviour or worse. And it's just not necessary. We've been saying it for years - hard drinking is not the only way to play. In fact, it's not playing at all.

But it is something that is "always done" and alcohol is pretty much the only "social lubricant" that is ever acknowledged.

So many quotation marks already - we might get crushed by the suckers.

True, work functions can feel really weird and forced without alcohol. But that's because alcohol is used as a substitute for anything else happening. It's where the imaginations of many start and stop.

There are plenty of other things that can be done to put play back into an event, to give people something to break the ice, something to talk about that isn't shop talk. Good entertainment does that. But alcohol does not equal entertainment. It's a beverage. That's all. Without something else people will make their own entertainment and thats when the creepiness can start.

Doesn't have to though.

Good entertainment does more than just give people something to look at.

1. It takes up drinking time - a show or performance gives people something to watch, cuts down on trips to the bar and allows the focus to be away from any internal discomfort.

2. It gives people something to talk about - watching something or interacting with a performer gives people a new topic of discussion. And it's something they have in common with everyone in the room - a shared experience.

3. It allows extroverts to be "the stars" in a way that is controlled and managed. It can be as explicit as several events I've been involved with recently . Or it can allow someone to interact with a professional in a controlled way that makes the guest look like the hero.

4. It creates memories of a good time that aren't always focussed on someone's embarrassment.

5. Activity based entertainment - like treasure hunts, quizzes, wearable arts shows, make your own movies - not only take the focus away from the bar but engage people in a way that makes alcohol actually a hindrance (especially if you have type A competitive types). And it bings people together.

Having partners at events really helps too. And good entertainment takes the pressure of partners for many of the reasons above as well. They don't feel they are on show and they have some common experiences to talk with people about.

Lots of people in the events industry know these things, its just about remembering them and having the proof points to give to clients. Bottom line is one - yes it does cost to hire entertainment but, especially for a show or fixed performance, the bar is idle and for that period of time there's no booze required. And reputational risk is another - no one wants to end up splashed across the news for bad behaviour.

Professional and experienced entertainers are required to help navigate this culture shift. But there are plenty of us out there. We're ready to bring real play back to events - where there is a sense of fun, where the guests are the hero and where you can relax that there aren't going to be repercussions the next day, the next week or years later.

Let's not play hard, let's play soft - inclusive, fun and memorable. For all the right reasons.

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