Bring Your Hobby to Work

Infuse a boring job with a bit of outside fun

Work-life harmony is an elusive balancing act. Imagine how it would tip the scales if you could bring your hobby to work. On one level, blending personal interests with professional accomplishments has a humanizing effect: The CEO who can talk about his golf game as well as about annual reports comes off as approachable. On the other hand, shilling your handmade jewelry at a company retreat might not be the best career move. What's the right balance?

Chicago executive coach Charlotte Weeks works with senior-level professionals, many of whom yearn to infuse their work life with a bit of outside fun. If you run your own business, Weeks says it's easier to combine the two. Simply think about how your hobby might enhance your business, and play it up. Let's say you're a realtor who loves to paint. Set up an Etsy store and link to it on your professional site. One of your paintings could look great over a client's new sofa. The trick is to create a legitimate link between your personal interests and your professional goals so that one plays off the other. (For more good ideas on adding enjoyment to your work day check out this 3-day Life Reimagined program to refresh your outlook at work.)

If you work in an office, things get stickier. "Sometimes it's appropriate to merge your hobbies with work life, but it all depends on the company culture," says Weeks. Company culture can be a fuzzy term. Weeks says that the easiest way to find out whether your Friday afternoon Pilates workshop or dumpling swap has room in the office is by clearing it with your boss—not by doing a trial run in the name of initiative. Frame it as an area of expertise that could add value to the company. Pilates could help colleagues de-stress; a cooking swap could be a way to connect in an informal environment.

If it's a go, approach HR to determine how best to advertise. In some cases, an informal company-wide email is fine; other times, you'll need to go the official route through a newsletter or bulletin board. Find out before you launch. Regardless, says Weeks, be transparent that this is a side business, and be sure to explicitly state whether there's cost involved. Position it as a value add and a way to bring innovation into the workplace.

Better still, think about free and creative ways to share wisdom with your coworkers. "When compensation isn't a factor, it can create even more opportunities for integrating hobbies into your work," Weeks says. Love to bake? Bring desserts into the office each Monday for your colleagues to critique, and share the recipes. Baseball fanatic? Start a league between various departments. Many bosses will appreciate the idea. "Employers see these efforts as ways to foster teamwork and to increase morale," Weeks says. By bringing your off-the-clock hobbies into the office, you're getting personal gratification and raising your leadership profile.