Acey Holmes – Founded in FoCo Podcast

Acey Holmes, the founder of BoredLess, joins Nick to talk about the importance of play at work – especially if you’re a solopreneur – and how it’s so important to give yourself permission to be open.

You can check out Acey’s panel at Founded in FoCo here:

And learn more about Acey’s business here:

The Founded in FoCo Podcast is hosted by Nick Armstrong, Lead Organizer of Founded in FoCo and Geek-in-Chief of WTF Marketing.

Hear more great interviews with founders in and around Fort Collins at:


*automated with minimal editing, may contain errors or typos

Acey Holmes 0:00
You’ve tried happy hours, you’ve tried the escape rooms, you’ve tried all of those things. And they were fun for a week and people talked about him for a week. But then everybody was miserable again. So just being open in the first place. And then the second one is really diving into the aspect of playfulness. So back to that sort of playfulness design and just considering playfulness of as a leader, maybe of yourself as a leader. So looking into what kind of playfulness can you start to exhibit throughout the offense and just seeing if any kind of, you know, conversations change, or maybe some email responses might be a little bit different?

Nick Armstrong 0:43
Hey, it’s Nick Armstrong, and you are listening to the podcast. Every episode we get to talk with mover and shaker in our community doing great and interesting things and the things that they are interested in as well. So today, I have Acey Holmes from BoredLess, Acey, tell us what you do.

Acey Holmes 0:58
Hi – I focus on bringing play back to professionals. So I was a pediatric speech pathologist, I literally played for a living and really got deep into some of the research around play. And trying to convince some old stodgy bureaucrats that after the pandemic, our kids didn’t need to go back to extra school and longer school days plus summer school, that play was in fact the answer and found that a lot of organizations were doing really good work in that area. And they did not need my help, I guess. So I realized that maybe this might apply to adults as well. And I fell deep, deep into a research rabbit hole, about play and adults. And it turns out play is just as great for adults as it is for kids.

Nick Armstrong 1:46
Now, are you talking about like video games? Are you talking about like Legos and stuff like that? What are you talking about? When you say play all of the above?

Acey Holmes 1:53
I have 10 characteristics that I personally believe to define play, you ask all the researchers and the real scientists, what play is how its defined, you will not get one answer, they’ll all tell you something different. So I decided to make my own it’s got 10 characteristics. One of the most important ones being that it’s really personal. So Lego is play, video games are play, sports are play. Sometimes reading can be play, pretty much anything that brings any particular person joy, but also has meaning and is actively engaging.

Nick Armstrong 2:30
So Tough Mudder qualifies.

Acey Holmes 2:33
It depends on the person’s motivations, but it could yes.

Nick Armstrong 2:37
That’s fascinating. So what are some of the benefits that we see about incorporating play for adults in particular, in an office space situation?

Acey Holmes 2:48
Well, that’s a great movie, by the way, every single character from that movie would probably have benefited from a little more play in their life, outstanding from the guy that said she needed more flair. So play is really relevant in our work situations. And it’s starting to become a little bit more prevalent and getting talked about a little bit more, because folks are starting to notice that people are actually people when their work still and not just a tool or a machine, and that people have human needs. And I will not go into the neuroscience behind play during this short discussion, but it does support that play is really actually like a like a crucial human need. Our brains thrive when we’re playing. So thinking about just being humans at work that we should get to play. Playing also really encourages communication, collaboration, creativity, I feel like that one’s kind of obvious. But two of my favorite benefits, especially for the office is that it really boosts openness and vulnerability. So when you think about teams working together, encountering problems of any sort, you know, whether it be from a product standpoint, or interpersonal, between the team standpoint, anything like that openness and vulnerability are going to lead to understanding and discussion and problem solving and critical thinking through that way. So play is the easiest way to get teams to that kind of situation.

Nick Armstrong 4:20
You’re not just talking about, like, in a particular situation you’re talking about all across the board, right?

Acey Holmes 4:25
Yeah. So what am I put my favorite terms is from the research, but it’s called playful work design. There’s people out there who are at academic universities, and that’s what they’re studying playful work design. There’s all kinds of research that supports it. And it’s so yeah, it doesn’t have to be one particular activity. You know, fun team building activities have their place and they’re a great time. But taking play and maximizing its potential. You got to go a lot deeper with it, bringing it into even just like the way you’ve scheduled a meeting.

Nick Armstrong 4:59
Yeah, and we’ve heard have, you know, idea generation sessions where it’s been primarily focused on play or Lego building or other things like that. It really trying to elicit this idea of the the beginner’s mind, right? There’s somebody who’s new, something they’re generating ideas they wouldn’t have with their mountains of experience. And so where do you see teams utilizing this the best? Because I know a lot of folks when they hear oh, we’re gonna have a team building day, that becomes like, “ah,” here comes the groans along with it,

Acey Holmes 5:30
I run, I run the other way. Somebody tells me we’re doing team building, even me, I run the other way. Yeah.

Nick Armstrong 5:36
How do you incorporate that into the data? I mean, without the groaning without – granted, you’re going to have some groaning – but how do you do it without people running screaming from the room?

Acey Holmes 5:44
The key to that is starting with education. So like I mentioned, I really everything that I pull from actually comes from neuroscience. So starting with education, helping everybody understand that this is not just forced fun. This is not just somebody told me to give you guys something fun to do. So I’m checking a box. But this is actually about their overall well being. And that the the application of the principles is more about looking at the physical, mental, cognitive health of the teams themselves as they work together.

Nick Armstrong 6:20
HR wrote me a memo and told me I had to have a good time. So I’m here I am.

Acey Holmes 6:23
Right, exactly. Did you hear about that guy in France?

Nick Armstrong 6:27
No, I did not – tell us the story.

Acey Holmes 6:28
This is not a joke. This is not a joke. That’s it sounded like a joke. We didn’t know there was really a guy in France got, or he sued his previous employer for wrongful termination, because he didn’t go to happy hour and the after work, required activities, and he sued them, and he won, as he should have. So yeah, it happens.

Nick Armstrong 6:51
I love the idea of incorporating this as an element into the work day into the structure. We’ve heard of, like the fifth days, the experimental lab days, right? So writing or use your Monday or a portion of your time throughout the week for just experimentation, knowing that it’s likely to fail. Google have famously implemented

Acey Holmes 7:13
Yes, yeah.

Nick Armstrong 7:15
Have you seen companies here locally implementing play into their work structure in a way that has yielded results?

Acey Holmes 7:22
Not on such a scale as that that I know of personally, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of stories that I’m getting from executive leadership, HR folks, or even just members of teams, individual contributors who are saying, my boss does that, oh, yeah, we have, we have a good time. There’s a great organization that does some really cool shoe technology. And they have fully embraced the flexible workweek. So it’s not necessarily remote. It’s not in the office, it’s not even hybrid, because they’ve, they’re given the choice, which is, which is major for for employees these days. And, but they have, they’re, they’re leaning towards encouraging to particular days just for the ease of you know, in person meetings and things that actually have to happen. Because they do have a tangible product. And the types of things that they are putting into place that are offerings and suggestions and not required and not forced are really impressive. So it’s definitely, it’s not hard to find.

Nick Armstrong 8:26
What would be a great first step for any company to take to implement more plan to their workspace.

Acey Holmes 8:33
I mean, this is a it’s a little abstract, but just just going into openness, leaning into it, you know, like giving it a shot, right? You’ve tried happy hours, you’ve tried the escape rooms, you’ve tried all of those things. And they were fun for a week and people talked about him for a week, but then everybody was miserable again. So just being open in the first place. And then the second one is really diving into the aspect of playfulness. So back to that sort of playful work design and just considering playfulness of as a leader, maybe of yourself as a leader. So looking into what kind of playfulness Can you start to exhibit throughout the office and just seeing if any kinda you know, conversations change, or maybe some email responses might be a little bit different.

Nick Armstrong 9:23
It seems like this would be a really common thing and it probably is firms like Crispin Porter Bogusky, the big ad agency down in Boulder, where we’ve seen like, you know, ping pong tables and foosball tables and all the rest of this stuff, can freelancers who are not a ginormous agency, they’re just a solopreneur. Can they take advantage of some of these principles as well?

Acey Holmes 9:43
Absolutely. So taking in playfulness into yourself. Sometimes I think it might even be a little bit more important for the solopreneur because we often end up working ourselves to death because no one’s telling us to but we also won’t be able to do it. If we don’t, so making, taking breaks important, but more than just taking breaks, making them actual meaningful breaks. So taking a walk is fantastic. But maybe make your walk a little bit playful and skip for a little bit of it or just turn around and walk backwards, look over your shoulder, please do not break. And say that I told you to do it. So turn around and walk backwards, maybe just do a couple of spins on the sidewalk. That kind of novel movement for your brain, the creative parts, and the good cognitive parts really start to light up when that stuff happens.

Nick Armstrong 10:38
Tell us about your talk at

Acey Holmes 10:41
It’s gonna lean into that quite a little bit. Because I know a lot of us are, you know, in even the bigger companies, they’ve got people that kind of take care of this culture and taking care of their people. But for us to take care of ourselves, really thinking about how to put this into play, because it’s just like any other self care, right? Okay, I know, I should meditate, I know I should go get a massage, I know I should do whatever. I don’t have time. So it’s the same kind of concept is that and so I hope to help folks that come to my talk, kind of sort that self out for themselves and help them along the way.

Nick Armstrong 11:17
For a freelancer, I imagine the advice is a little bit different than like a larger corporate or mid sized corporate HR department. For freelancers. Have you seen particular things be really effective? Is it just simply a matter of being open to making the time for yourself?

Acey Holmes 11:30
Yeah, and it’s really more about for individuals, it’s a little bit more about giving ourselves permission. So as adults, we feel like we should be doing this, this and this. And same for entrepreneurs. And so considering doing something playful, for the sake of it just being play is really hard. We’re responsible and serious people that need to do business. So helping work through that kind of little bit more. So I guess it is being open, but then also giving yourself permission

Nick Armstrong 12:04
So give yourself a note from HR, that —

Acey Holmes 12:07
By the way, you’re HR, so don’t sue yourself.

Nick Armstrong 12:10
Your HR, and also maybe the overly litigious employee.

Acey Holmes 12:17

Nick Armstrong 12:18
What’s the one takeaway from your talk at Founded in FoCo that folks can look forward to?

Acey Holmes 12:23
Oh, gosh, um, I think just how important really traditional play is, it doesn’t have to be anything complicated. You don’t have to sign up for an improv class. You don’t have to get, you know, find a pickup basketball team, it can be really traditional, back to sort of your roots and what you like to do as a kid kind of play in that. It’s not too difficult to access.

Nick Armstrong 12:49
Awesome. And if freelancers or solopreneurs or even small business owners wanted to get in touch with you and learn more about your business, where can they find more about you?

Acey Holmes 12:58
I’m on the web, Actually, I’m very proud of this stuff, because they this is pretty easy to Google. I worked really hard on my SEO so you can find me on the web Instagrams, also the same BeBoredLess. And my email address is Acey And I love to chat, I could happy to send out a Calendly to anybody.

Nick Armstrong 13:31
Acey, thank you so much for being here with me today. And for more great actionable advice from your fellow entrepreneurs, visit We hope to see you March 1st through 3rd.

Hey, thanks for listening. I’m Nick Armstrong, and this is a podcast. For more great interviews like this one. Join us at

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