Accountants are often pigeonholed as being all about business, with little in the way of personal lives in and out of the office. But new research suggests that just the opposite is true, according to former CPA and current comedian/podcast host John Garrett.

On Garrett's Green Apple Podcast, he sits down with accountants -- as well as lawyers, consultants, and other professionals -- to discuss "how to stand out at work by focusing on being different in order to get ahead." Part of this idea involves passions outside of work, so starting December 2014, Garrett began conducting an online survey, asking professionals about the correlation between their personal and professional lives. (The survey is still live and can be taken on Garrett's site here.)

John Garrett
John Garrett johngcomedy.com

Based on his findings thus far, Garrett has found that 91.8% have a hobby outside of work, with 87.8% of those talking about their hobbies in the office. Another 88.2% of those polled said they have coworkers who talk to them about their hobbies.

"I was pleasantly surprised," Garrett told Accounting Today. "I see a lot of eyebrows go up at talks when I say it’s around 91%. [But] what are the other 9% doing? That’s the shocking part to me."

Respondents were also asked, "Due to talking about your hobby or interest at work, do you feel you have a stronger connection with your co-workers or clients?" and were asked to rate their answers on a scale of 1 to 4 (4 being the strongest). The average came out to 3.32. Respondents were also asked, "Has your career benefited from talking about your hobby or interest at work?" with a result of only 2.71.

Garrett believes these numbers indicate that professionals need to intertwine their hobbies with their professions, and that they shouldn't lose or hide their passions over the course of their career.

"I think the bigger part is that [hobbies] really are who you are as an individual," he said. "You have that hobby or passions before you have that job, and it’s with you all along. It’s easy for people to forget that, or not put any value to that because it’s not revenue-generating, but I found it not only creates your identity and who you are, but when people are talking about them, their eyes light up; they come alive."

Firms could and should get more involved with their staff's personal lives, Garrett argues, for a simple culture boost. Current stats from the survey found that respondents gave a 3.25 score when asked, "Does your company / firm encourage work-life balance?" but only a 2.63 score was given for, "Does your company / firm encourage you to talk about your hobby or interest at work?"

"What if you gave everyone an hour a week, four hours a month, to go do their passion? Then you got to do it and then tell us about it," he suggested. "Firms should find what their people care about and put them to work. Instead of giving everyone a Starbucks gift card for their birthday, [individualize them] them instead."

Hobbies, Garrett argues, definitely have a place in the office and can give a whole new perspective to how staff view each other and themselves.

"I wish people didn’t think of their hobbies as throwaways, but they’re taught to think that," he said. "Allow [staff] to be people, and allow them to be human."

(Hear more from Garrett in our podcast interview with him here.)

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