Q&A with Allegra Cohen, FUNgineer
Allegra Cohen is a FUNgineer who is dedicated to bringing social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being to individuals and companies alike. Through her rather unconventional consulting company, ABUNdance, Allegra offers dynamic programs that help employees cultivate creativity, gratitude, teamwork, and joy at work.
AccessElite is proud to partner with Allegra to bring her fresh and inspiring experiences to our clients. We recently sat down with Allegra to find out more about ABUNdance and the special sauce she brings to the table.
What is a FUNgineer, and how did you get into this business?
A FUNgineer is someone who raises the fun frequency, helping people enjoy more and stress less. Companies want their employees to feel more grounded, balanced, happy, and motivated. Sometimes that requires a funtervention!
My background is in entertainment – I’ve done film acting and production, off-Broadway theater, television, voicework, commercials. But I’ve always been a FUNgineer. It’s just a part of who I am and what I do. My job is to show you that the fun is not outside of ourselves. We are the fun.
But at work? Are you sure we’re supposed to be having fun at work?
Yes! Studies have shown that having collaborative, enjoyable experiences at work improves employees’ resilience and optimism. Co-workers are able to connect in a purely authentic way, which increases the self-drive to help one another.
You know, there’s a reason we were less stressed as children. It’s because we were dancing and singing and playing and using our imagination and being creative and being silly. As adults, we’ve forgotten all of that, and we need a reminder. Stress is a big problem, but when we can have fun and shake things up for even 30 seconds, it changes our physiology. It upgrades our mindset and immediately reduces our cortisol levels. It’s OK to be silly. We can be serious about our work but we don’t have to be serious with each other.
What are some of the activities you do to “shake things up” in your workshops and events?
We might do a dance, a cheer, or a guided meditation. We might loosen up with facial and vocal exercises. We might do breath-work, or we might do some creative brainstorming around an intriguing topic. We break into pairs and give each other pep talks, where you have to compliment someone for one minute straight.
In my “Preschool for a Day” experience, participants incorporate their favorite preschool activities, including creative art work, uplifting coloring, gratitude journaling, and even “recess,” where we do bonding activities. And of course we learn breathing techniques during “nap-time.” It’s an
immersive experience designed to foster collaboration and reinvigorate creativity. It’s also a great reminder about the feelings of safety and security that we get from group play.
Is it hard for some work groups to embrace these ideas?
There have been companies that have said to me, “You can’t do a dance with these people. You can’t do breath-work with these people.” But this is who I am, this is what I do, and this is why they hire me. So we’re going to link arms, virtually, and we’re going to do this together. I always begin by welcoming everyone to our judgment-free zone, reminding everyone to trust that they are exactly where they’re meant to be in this moment, and then giving them permission to play!
What are some small things people can do when the going gets rough at work?
When you’re feeling stressed at work, things are hectic, clients are coming at you, and you feel you have to respond right away – that’s the time to take a pause. Do what I call a “3-4-5 breath.” Take a deep, conscious, and purpose-filled breath for three seconds, hold it for four seconds, and breathe out for five seconds. Take time for yourself throughout the day to do breath-work, to be grateful, and to get physical. Take a little walk around the office or the neighborhood, interact, say hi to people. Give yourself permission to take the time to do that.
Another thing I talk to employees about is finding micro-JOYS. Micro-JOYS are the little things in life that create a directionality of positivity and joy. And you should collect as many as you can every single day. It starts with choosing your attitude – bringing an attitude of gratitude into every day. It’s about celebrating people’s wins, appreciating the little things, putting a smile on someone’s face, making someone feel really special, giving someone a random compliment or doing a random act of kindness, even just sending someone an email or a text saying, “You were so helpful and you made me feel great today.”
When you initiate a RICHual of celebrating team member wins like that, the positive acknowledgement is shared among the group and everyone feels the joy. Creating a team activity where everyone starts off a meeting by sharing one thing they are grateful for and passing the baton to someone else is the fastest way to get a group into a state of appreciation.
You mean a “ritual”?
No, I mean a RICHual – a daily habit money can’t buy. It’s something that helps you feel good, happy, healthy. With RICHuals, you’re incorporating something that maybe you’ve forgotten was important to you or that could be fun. We’re responsible for the energy we bring into everything we do. So it’s about being mindful of what we’re choosing to do every single day.
RICHuals are a source of power that give you a greater sense of control in structuring your day. By including daily habits that I actually enjoy doing – and working my life around them – I’m saying YES to me.
Seriously, what’s your secret?
I’m a firm believer that today is a gift. Every single day I wake up in the morning and say, “Today is a great day.” Even if I’m having a tough moment and my toddler doesn’t want to get dressed or my internet drops during a Zoom meeting, I will still say to myself, “Today is a great day.” Because today is ALL we have. So let’s play!
AccessElite partners with innovative vendors like Allegra Cohen to bring powerful programs to employers of all sizes. To learn more, visit us at https://accesselitewellbeing.com, or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.