Here’s the science – according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Management, incorporating play into the workplace improves the mental health of individual workers by reducing stress, fatigue, boredom and burnout. At the same time, it increases job satisfaction and creativity.
The truth is, creating a more playful team culture can benefit all businesses because fun and games have a positive impact on mood and can also boost productivity.
When it comes to teams, the benefits of engaging in play include increased trust, bonding, social interaction, and feelings of unity, and a decreased sense of hierarchy.
The study also suggests that embracing play as part of your workplace culture can benefit the whole organisation by creating a friendlier atmosphere, improving employee satisfaction and commitment to work, and increasing creativity company-wide.
Psychiatrist Dr Stuart Brown, founder of US organisation The National Institute For Play, agrees. “When employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement and morale,” he says. “Not only does having a playful atmosphere attract young talent, but experts say play at work can boost creativity and productivity in people of all ages. There is good evidence that if you allow employees to engage in something they want to do, [which] is playful, there are better outcomes in terms of productivity and motivation.”
Another significant benefit of embracing play is that it enables employees to make connections and helps build a community. It’s not always easy for individuals to establish relationships at work and taking part in social activities that encourage relationship-building can improve employee engagement. A 2019 study by software company Globant found that 62% of employees wished they knew their co-workers better and 83% believed that knowing their co-workers better would make them a more engaged team member.
When employees form and maintain positive relationships with their co-workers, it creates a sense of belonging. And people who feel that they belong to the team are more motivated to work hard and challenge themselves.
Due to the ongoing Covid crisis, creating a sense of belonging is more important than ever, as many businesses are relying on remote teams or are in the process of making a permanent transition to a hybrid workforce. The isolation of working from home can cause remote workers to become disengaged and unmotivated, so forging connections and forming positive relationships with teammates – regardless of where they’re located – should be a priority.
Playing games for teams is a great way to get to know your co-workers – you might find someone with a common interest or discover a teammate’s hidden talent. Opening up avenues of conversation amongst co-workers builds bonds and fosters meaningful relationships, which has a positive effect on productivity and helps create a harmonious work environment.
Introducing play to the workplace may seem tricky as remote or hybrid teams can’t take advantage of office foosball, ping-pong or fitness classes.
However, it’s actually quite easy to take playtime online. For example, start the team Zoom meeting with a two-minute quiz, share a fact of the day, joke or funny video, or ask attendees to solve a brain-teaser. If you really want to energise the team, begin with a song and encourage everyone to get up and dance. People who feel self-conscious can turn off their cameras and allow their more outgoing team members take centre stage.
In addition to these daily dalliances, schedule regular team play dates on platforms like Remote Social and play online games like bingo and trivia. Our virtual playground will also also provide hosted activities for teams such as pizza making, wine or beer tasting, dance workshops and painting classes. You’re sure to find something that will appeal to everyone.
Whatever fun and games you bring to the table (or Zoom meeting), weaving play into your work culture is a winning idea that can contribute to a happier, healthier and more productive team.