Skip to main content
Securian Financial Home

Play at work: Creating a human-centered workplace by bringing artistic expression into work life.

Securian Financial associates build community, foster inclusion

Some might think of play at work as a distraction, inappropriate or simply a waste of time. Their idea of play is that it’s taking time away from “real work.” Raise your hand if you want to work there.

Instead, imagine a workplace where people are allowed to play — and even better — encouraged to play. Thoughtful arts, cultural and wellness events in the workplace make people feel engaged, motivated and energized and help create a sense of community.

That’s what Securian Financial is striving to provide.

Author Joline Godfrey puts the concept into perspective. “All work and no play doesn’t just make Jill and Jack dull; it kills the potential of discovery, mastery, and openness to change and flexibility and hinders innovation and invention.”

Research has found evidence that play at work is linked with less fatigue, boredom, stress, and burnout in individual workers. Play is also positively associated with job satisfaction, competence and creativity. Studies show that when participants receive a task presented playfully, they are more involved and spend more time on it.1

“You may be surprised that a large financial services company offers such robust ways to engage in performance and play,” Elena Imaretska from Securian Financial’s Diversity Equity and Inclusion Center of Excellence said. “The beauty of our culture is that we value each individual and strive to create a place where folks can not only bring their full selves but also stretch and grow in new ways.”

Fitting playtime into your day is essential for working productively. Play is a basic emotional system, essential in both child development and adult creativity, and studies show it increases job satisfaction, creativity, and innovation. More importantly, play prepares us to deal with the unexpected by broadening the breadth of experiences you have to draw from when meeting new challenges.2

In September, Securian Women and Allies Network (SWAN) used the power of play to engage new and seasoned members in a mid-day showcase, including games and opportunities to volunteer with women-focused nonprofits. For many, the highlight was a live choreographed dance performance by Securian Financial associates, incorporating banners with quotes and statistics to educate about the barriers to gender equality and steps to achieve it. Women and men performers — none were professional — simply wanted to be involved and were willing to be vulnerable by being on stage. Many in the audience were moved to tears. 

I am so proud to work with so many powerhouse humans who strive to create a more inclusive environment

Katie Mooers

Securian Financial Customer Operations Consultant and SWAN co-lead

SWAN performer Michelle Ongaro, Securian Project/Program Management Consultant, said of the performance and its effect on both participants and audience, “It felt like an anthem of hope: resonating with each of us what we can do to unite towards a common goal. One step at a time.”

Teams of workers can benefit from play via increased trust, bonding and social interaction, a sense of solidarity, and a decreased sense of hierarchy. Furthermore, findings suggest that play at work can benefit whole organizations by creating a friendlier work atmosphere, higher employee commitment to work, more flexible organization-wide decision-making, and increased organizational creativity.

Another way Securian Associates can engage in play regularly is through Securian Sound, a collection of associates who are enthusiastic about making music together. “Our members have the opportunity to opt into any performance, and we always make sure to create as high a quality performance based on the talent available for each performance,” said Jonathan Flory, Infrastructure Sr. Consultant for Securian. Annual performances include the holiday concert in mid-December and singing the national anthem at the all-company meeting and at the Securian Night Out at the Saints.

Whether it’s the actual physical feeling of singing something well or the happiness that comes from hearing the choir get a particularly difficult passage for the first time, our Securian Sound rehearsals over lunch recharges me for the rest of the work day.

Jonathan Flory

Securian Financial

“When we work in the world of PowerPoints and excel spreadsheets, we might forget the work we do is first and foremost about people,” continued Imaretska.” We have to be in tune with what’s happening in the world and our customers, as well as with the humans we work with. Actively engaging with the arts helps practice vulnerability and connection, all necessary when we seek to create new solutions as we deliver on our purpose as an organization.

Securian Financial’s commitment to the community is substantial as demonstrated by 21,000 volunteer hours and $9.9M giving in 2022.

Play is at work as we mobilize for our communities as well:

  • The annual Trivia Mafia event is organized by the Individual Life and Annuity sales desks as part of Securian’s Annual Giving Campaign. Teams of four compete for Minnesota Wild tickets in the Securian Suite as well as other fabulous prizes (including bragging rights). All in all, over $14,000 has been raised for charity in recent years. Organizer Dan Jackson, Senior Regional Sales Consultant for Securian, said, “This is more than just a charity event. It is an opportunity for colleagues to bond and compete with one another. I’m always so thrilled to see my fellow associates let loose and show their competitive sides. Plus, it’s all for a great cause!”
  • Twenty-nine talented people showed up to dance, sing, play piano, play French horn, and lip sync to raise $1,175 during the Annual Giving Campaign Variety Show. Winner Cathy Jo Smith, Securian Contact Center Supervisor, inspired with her take on “Simply, I love you” (Babbie Mason), chose to donate the funds to Feed My Starving Children. The donation will feed 13 kids a daily meal for an entire year.

Music and the arts are a beautiful expression of our world, our individual cultures, and our life experiences. Sometimes it’s a tangible demonstration of emotion, while other times, it evokes an emotional or deep thoughtful response. Beethoven once said, “Music can change the world,” and I believe this to be true. It is a powerful influence to move our hearts and our souls.

Cathy Jo Smith

Securian Financial

Bringing play and artistic expression into our work life enhances and deepens our connection with others. We become more understanding of the diverse ecosystem of personalities, opinions, perspectives and backgrounds in our workplace

Like what you’re reading?

Get articles like this delivered directly to your inbox. 

Sign up

What is play?

Play is simply having fun, being joyful and energized. Play is games, art, books, sports, movies, music, comedy, flirting, talking and even daydreaming.

Elena Imaretska, Katie Mooers, Michelle Ongaro, Jonathan Flory, Dan Jackson, Cathy Jo Smith are Securian Financial employees and therefore have a financial connection to Securian Financial. Their statements were given freely.

1. Petelczyc, Claire Aislinn. “Types of Play at Work and Effects on Work-Related Outcomes.” May 2021.

2. Rock, David. “Unlocking the Cognitive Benefits of Play.” Psychology Today, August 11, 2022.

DOFU 2-2023