The Hobbies In HR

The Hobbies In HR

Hobbies bring down stress levels, improve happiness, confidence and self-esteem which result in enhanced productivity. This makes hobbies another silent ‘H’ in HR, that contributes to people’s practices in a big way.

I saw a Ukulele player performing on stage. It struck me that I had seen this person somewhere, but he definitely was not Shah Rukh Khan from DDLJ! It took me some time to figure out that he was none other than the legendary investor Warren Buffett, one of the richest men on earth. Playing the Ukulele is his hobby and he plays on television as well.


Hobbies are fun. At the same time, hobbies bring down stress levels, improve happiness, confidence and self-esteem which result in enhanced productivity. This makes hobbies another silent ‘H’ in HR, that contributes to people’s practices in a big way.


As per WHO, every year the global economy loses a trillion dollars on account of anxiety and depression. In the past decade, there has been a 13% rise in mental health cases. The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened things. Organisations have been working on a war footing to counter mental health issues by introducing various programmes. Most of these programmes are corrective measures rather than preventive ones. One of the preventive solutions that the organisations can consider is implementing a comprehensive hobbies framework.




The dictionary definition says that a hobby is an activity done regularly in one’s leisure time for pleasure. The keywords in the definition are ‘regularly’ and ‘pleasure’. Hobbies are of five types.


• Physical Hobbies: Physical Hobbies are hobbies that require physical effort. These hobbies are good for physical fitness. These hobbies include walking, running, dancing, hiking, playing sports or doing yoga.


• Mental and Emotional Hobbies: Mental Hobbies are hobbies that require mental exercise or emotional relief, but do not involve physical effort. These include reading, painting, photography, cooking, solving puzzles or music.


 Social and Interpersonal Hobbies: This is a hybrid hobby. When two or more individuals pursue physical or mental hobbies together, they become social hobbies. These can be running a marathon together, group dancing, exploring new restaurants, singing together, debate or trying new technology.


How Hobbies Help


Hobbies can help in 3 ways to improve productivity, creativity, engagement and retention.


1. Smothering Stress: When people engage in a hobby, happiness hormones such as dopamine increase in the brain. That is how hobbies bring down stress levels. Listening to music for only 30 minutes a day can bring down blood pressure. A Pittsburgh study reported that people who are engaged in a new hobby sleep better and have less trouble falling asleep. A stress-free workforce is more productive and creative at work.


2. Social Bonding: When people pursue hobbies together, they build social bonds. These bonds create an informal network within the organisation and break silos. This addresses the Gallup question ‘Do you have a best friend at work?’ Social bonding improves engagement and retention.


3. Passion Priming: Practicing anything 10,000 times makes an individual an expert. In the case of hobbies, people practice their passion. People become more passionate about their work. When people work with passion, it rids them of boredom, the pace quickens and there are fewer complaints.


This apart, hobbies can be used for skill development to insinuate performance enhancement.


Hobby and Skill Development


You must be wondering how hobbies are linked to skill development. Let me illustrate this with a little story. I met an Uber driver who did 5000+ trips with a star rating of 4.9. I asked him the secret behind such a phenomenal rating. He said that he learnt a lesson in the first week of joining the job. He got the job due to his driving skills. However, customers were rating him on parameters like the cleanliness of the cab, greetings, timeliness and conversation. He figured out that the soft skills needed to do his job made him more valuable than the core skill of driving.


Hobbies help people acquire these soft skills that make people more effective in doing their job. Hobbies make people confident and enhance self-esteem. The top 3 soft skills include:–


1. Learnability: Learning a new hobby, a new song or a new language improves learnability, which improves the speed of learning new things and can take their performance to the next level. People become open, curious and experimental.


2. Attention to Detail: When you learn something with passion, you get into its nitty gritties. You start appreciating the finesse. This skill is called ‘Attention to detail’. Once this is learnt, it comes in very handy in planning and executing any kind of project.


3. Perspective development: Practicing a hobby develops perspective. This perspective can come from meeting new people, or from interpreting things with a different context. For example, a marathon runner can appreciate the importance of having a steady pace rather than having a fierce start. Perspectives improve creativity and problem-solving skills.


Apart from universal soft skills, various hobbies can impart specific skills as well. Hobbies like reading and debating can improve language skills. Puzzles can improve problem solving skills.


Hobby Framework


The hobby framework is an intervention that improves the overall work environment and energy levels in the organisation. It can have an impact on tangibles like productivity, attrition, and absenteeism. The hobby framework must be tailored for each organisation in 3 simple steps.


1. Define Organisation Requirement


An organisation can define its requirements based on two key inputs.


a. Health of employees: Employees’ health can be assessed based on absenteeism days and medical insurance costs. Identify the ailments that contribute to absenteeism and medical expenses. The preventive measures to bring down the ailments is the first input.


b. Skill requirements: Every organisation knows the skills which are valuable for its business based on the nature of the business and customer profile. Listing and prioritising soft skill requirements is the second input for setting a hobby framework in the organisation.


2. People Preferences


According to Chestnut Global partners report, Employee Assistance programmes are highly effective, but less than 7% of employees use them. Hence, it is advisable to collect preference data by having several small group employee meetings followed by surveys.


3. Communities And Champions


Once you understand the organisation requirement and people preferences, create communities. For example, create a cricket club for team building, create a marathon club for fitness, coders community for improving coding skills, toastmasters for English speaking etc.


Communities need operating structures and budgets. Identify champions for each community. Let communities decide their programme calendar. Institutionalising incentives for increasing membership is never a bad idea. Organisations should provide a platform to showcase the talent of community members and recognise the people behind these communities.


A hobby framework is not an individual development programme. It should not be treated like one. People should not be forced to join a particular community. They should be inspired to do so based on their interests. That is how this H in HR improves the overall organisational effectiveness.





Harjeet Khanduja is an international speaker, author, poet, influencer, inventor and HR leader. He is an alumnus of IIT Roorkee and INSEAD. He is currently working as the Vice President HR at Reliance Jio. He has 2 published patents and his book “Nothing About Business” is an Amazon bestseller. Harjeet has been a LinkedIn Power Profile, TEDx speaker, Guest Faculty at IIM Ahmedabad, Board Member of the Federation of World Academics and a Global Digital Ambassador. Harjeet features in Top 100 Global thought Leaders 2021.


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