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words to describe company culture
Words to Describe Company Culture: Work Hard Play Hard

Over the course of our projects, we have interviewed hundreds of team members across a diverse array of industries, company sizes, and cultures. Despite the many unique differences throughout companies, we’ve found how people describe their workplace is actually often pretty similar — and that can sometimes be detrimental to the recruiting process.

When an organization describes themselves “like a family” or says that “we work hard and play hard,” it’s probably true. But when multiple different organizations with very different cultures are both claiming that, the true meaning behind the ‘jargon’ is lost on the candidates. These types of descriptions mean different things to different people, and should be communicated accordingly.

So the question from candidates becomes: what does that statement specifically mean at your organization and how can you truly show that off?

Words to describe company culture…

“Work hard, play hard” often rolls off the tongue of our storytellers when describing the ‘fun’ side of their organization. The phrase aims to communicate the balance of hard work and meaningful, light-hearted relationships with colleagues.

While having fun at work has been linked with numerous benefits — improving collaboration, creativity, and productivity, to name a few — how the company goes about creating that fun can tell a candidate a lot about what it would be like to work there. Does the fun typically happen during work, or after hours? Are team members obligated to go, or do they choose to take part? Does it center around alcohol, or is the “play” more well-rounded?

If you’re saying you “work hard, play hard,” you’re likely doing some of these things:

  • Planning company events outside of work, such as happy hours, dinners, tickets to events, etc. that allow team members to form relationships away from their desks.
  • Creating an environment of fun during the workday, whether that is encouraging team members to decorate their desks or a ping pong table to challenge your partner to a match.
  • Leadership participation and buy-in — if team members see their leaders taking advantage of fun perks, they will be more likely to do so.
  • A strong work/life balance policy that empowers team members to “play hard” in their personal life too
  • Recognizing in-work success with out-of-work celebrations and rewards.

How stories can show off your work-hard-play-hard culture:

As always, stories are the best way to truly bring to life the general statements about your company culture. And while dozens of companies may be touting the same work-hard-play-hard culture, if you tell a story that proves that culture to be true, candidates are much more likely to remember you. And more importantly, use this information to decide themselves whether or not they’d be a good fit to join your organization.  

To truly demonstrate a culture of hard work and fun you need more than just examples of fun perks. Find the stories that show why a fun work environment matters: how it provides personal value to a team member’s life; how it increases productivity, or results in greater collaboration.

These are the stories that show candidates what they can look forward to experiencing, too, getting all the more excited about the prospect of joining the team.

Combining personal and professional passion

We spoke with individuals from a large defense contractor. When the solar eclipse was approaching in the summer of 2017, semiconductor engineer Maggie R. was nervous that no one else in the office was going to be interested:

When the solar eclipse was coming up, I was nervous that no one else was going to want to watch it with me. And so I went outside by myself and there were probably already thirty people standing out there. People had brought out their welding masks and they had the glasses and it was really nice. Everyone was really nerding out and having so much fun and it was nice to see everyone come together, especially for something scientific.

This story demonstrates that this organization’s passion for science goes beyond just the work they do; it’s a passion that brings them all together outside of the office.

Work Hard, Play Hard, Show Better Culture

There’s nothing wrong with having a work hard play hard company culture, but there is something wrong with saying it…without sharing the details! Candidates are looking to understand how they’ll fit in with your team and their version of playing hard might look a lot different from your team’s.

Implementing a stories-based approach will allow you to still say ‘work hard play hard’ while at the same time demonstrating what that means to your team on a day-to-day basis for potential candidates to get a glimpse of.

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