Fun At Work with Robert Manolson · ShiftWorkPlace

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E64 Fun At Work with Robert Manolson


It’s all about play: A Jewish Canadian shows how incorporating play at work can mean having the best of both worlds!

Bio for Robert Manolson

Robert Manolson is a certified career counsellor, and creator and workshop facilitator of Powerful Play Experiences to enable positive workplace mental health for teams. As an avid mental health champion, Robert’s goal is to be a role model for men to get support for mental health issues.

Episode highlight

Robert Manolson is on a mission to inspire workplaces, especially during the pandemic, to embrace the value of fun at work as a simple, effective and cost-free strategy to shift the energy and people’s mental health levels in the workplace.



  • “I’m of the belief that if we incorporate more fun at work or happy at work, more joy, more team engagement, that’s just good mental health – that’s good positive workplace mental health.”
  • “Regardless of your faith… where you come from, your nationality, it was play on the streets that brought everybody together. Everything can be put aside because play was the thing that everybody shared in common and everybody understood and it was easy, it was fun, and it built community.”
  • “Once we invite each other to the sandbox and we bring our pail and shovel along and we all get into the sandbox together to build sandcastles, the energy is different, there is more collaboration, there is more respect, there is more sharing, there is more inventing or creating or shared decision making, shared problem solving – all because we’re in a sandbox together with a pail and shovel building sandcastles together.”
  • “The #1 reason why everybody calls me to do a workshop is because they want more kindness in their workplace!”
  • “Regardless of your community, regardless of who makes up that community, we’re all deserving of kindness. Everyone deserves kindness regardless of the.. differences in community.”


Childhood Incidents

Robert grew up in a Jewish neighbourhood in Montreal, with playtime being a big part of his childhood. He feels blessed to have had safe relationships with friends who shared the same values, beliefs and interests.

When his family moved out of Montreal, leaving the safety of the Jewish neighbourhood came as a huge culture shock to him and impacted him significantly. It made him very private about his faith. However, play once again united the children in the neighbourhood, as well as the families.

His high school guidance counsellor guided him towards a community recreation leadership program where play was the focus of the course. He also pursued a master’s in leisure and recreation studies. His career “has always incorporated some form of play”.

Influential groups

Robert lives in the space somewhere between complete acceptance and complete denial of his Jewish faith now. He has overcome the years of struggle with keeping his faith private and is now coming to terms with being comfortable talking about it.

Growing up, Robert observed mental illness issues on both sides of his family. The language used to describe those conditions was “not very kind or appropriate”, but he has worked to find peace in his own mental issues of depression and anxiety, and make conversations on this subject appropriate.

Temperament and Personality Influences

Robert shares anecdotes of his mother’s kind nature, and reflects that “kindness was nurtured and part of the fabric of the Jewish community”. This impacts the work he does today, in trying to encourage kindness at the workplace through the vehicle of play.

Cultural Epiphanies

Robert confesses that he knew very little about the First Nations communities when he moved to Alberta. He had to step out of his comfort zone to learn about people different from him and get accustomed to how different life was in Alberta compared to the Jewish neighbourhood in Quebec.

Advice to an Employer

Robert thrives in working relationships that are “nurtured with kindness and care for one another, respect and openness and celebration of each other’s differences, and okayness with being authentic and being who you are”. Smiling and laughing together is also important to him at work.

More Great Insights!

Robert explains that we need to add more care to our own lives and that of our teams’ lives to give ourselves a mental break, both personally and professionally. Reach out to Robert for a fun session of play at work to change the energy and culture of your team!


Robert Manolson’s message is simple: for business leaders to step up and embrace the value of fun at work and build a culture of highly engaged and happy teams. We all need to prioritize our daily mental health both at work and in life.


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