The Value of Outside Interests

Many times throughout my career, I’ve heard other business owners complain about their employees doing things on the side. They feel it causes them to lose focus and energy. Put another way, in return for a paycheck, they get to own them 24/7.

That’s an unenlightened attitude, perhaps a holdover from the “Mad Men” era. Here at Imagine, we actually encourage outside interests. Everyone on our team has a little something extra going on, from charitable/church work and martial arts to freelancing and ghostwriting. One of my co-workers even got her master’s degree in applied communication. As for me, I write Las Vegas novels.

Why do we think this is a good thing? Because we’ve seen how, rather than create distractions or spread people too thin, it does just the opposite. The Imagine team comes to work happy and energized because they’re doing personal work that matters to them. (Sure, Imagine is a great place to work. But it’s still work. Not every day feeds our souls.) And as an added bonus, the new knowledge and skills gained from these endeavors helps us perform better in our day jobs.

So, memo to employers stuck in the mid-20th century: loosen the reins. Inspire your people to test the waters outside of the office environment. You might find it improves attitudes, prevents burnout and keeps that front door from revolving.

Brian Rouff serves as managing partner at Imagine Communications.

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