As a busy working professional, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. I should know because it happened to me about a decade ago. I started feeling run down and burned out. Eventually, I realized that I needed to make a change. I needed an outlet outside of work, which turned out to be a music class. When I set aside time to relax and play the piano, I discovered how beneficial having a hobby can be.
Hobbies can benefit your personal and professional life.
Now, I make time to play piano and cello every week. I also enjoy photography and puzzles. These activities help me feel restored. I become so focused on what I’m doing that my brain has time to rest. I remove myself from the stress of everyday life. My mind enters a relaxed state where ideas pop into my head – ideas I usually wouldn’t have thought of. These fun pastimes allow me to explore new perspectives and reframe challenging situations.
Having hobbies outside of work can boost your confidence and make you more comfortable taking risks. As the great David Bowie once said:
“If you feel safe in the area you are working in, you are not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel you are capable of being in. Go a little bit out of your depth, and when you do not feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you are just about in the right place to do something exciting”.
Dedicating time to a hobby can enhance your self-esteem and self-belief as you learn to express yourself and discover how much you can achieve. That renewed faith in yourself ultimately translates into how you present yourself at work, giving you greater confidence and a positive presence.
Hobbies can teach you new skills.
Another lesson I learned is that you never know what skills you will gain when you start a hobby. Something I learned from playing piano is how to handle nerves. I get nervous when preparing to perform in front of an audience. However, I’ve found that facing and overcoming performance anxiety has helped me prepare for big presentations at work. Photography has raised my self-awareness as I notice many more dynamics around me. Puzzles are one of the best activities to help me enter the ‘flow zone,’ clearing my mind to create a greater capacity for new ideas. Hobbies can also enhance relationship-building and networking skills, allowing you to meet new people with similar interests. For someone like me, who moved extensively internationally, being passionate about my hobbies has allowed me to meet many wonderful people who have become life-long friends.
Hobbies can open up professional possibilities.
Higher life expectancies coupled with rising inflation reducing retirement savings are causing people to stay in the workforce longer. As people navigate lengthier careers, I’ve noticed that some choose to change industries while others look for ways to incorporate their passions into a new career. For example, people who pick up a hobby like photography may turn it into a business or explore a career in journalism, media, publishing, design, etc. As I think about the future of work, I recall something that Lynda Gratton, Professor at the London Business School, said:
“I believe there is an opportunity over the coming decades to shape work and life in a manner that enables people to reconnect with what makes them happy and creates a high quality of experience.”
I agree with Professor Gratton that there is an opportunity for people to turn their hobbies into fully-fledged careers, bringing new energy and passion into their work and lives.
Make time for a hobby in your life.
While there are many benefits of pursuing hobbies outside of work, the challenge for many is figuring out how to fit their hobbies into an already packed schedule. What worked for me was finding pockets of time when I could sneak in some piano practice, like in the evenings after the kids were in bed. Sometimes, I connect two things I love, like photography and spending time with my family! Find hobby windows of time that won’t take away from anything you want to prioritize. And yes, none of this works perfectly. But think of the prize – more success, better health, and greater happiness.
Leaders should support their employees’ hobbies.
Work-life integration is critical, and leaders can support their team by taking an interest in their hobbies. Ask your team what they like to do in their spare time. You might find yourself getting inspired! Learning about your colleagues’ hobbies and passions can help you understand your team better as people. You will discover what drives them and what matters to them as individuals. At Reynolds, for example, our Operations Team incorporates talent shows into work events so employees can showcase their unique talents and interests. It’s an excellent way to learn about each other’s gifts.
What hobbies do you enjoy?
Hobbies are beneficial in so many ways. They can help you discover the bravery of being yourself. Hobbies are a safe space where you can grow your confidence, and that confidence can carry over to work, which is a beautiful thing.