The power of play at work
1 June 2017, by Karl Graham
What if you worked in a place where you are not only allowed to play, but encouraged. It’s a trend that’s emerging in many organisations, especially amongst technology and start-up businesses. High profile examples include Google, Pixar and IDEO. More importantly, they instil a culture of play – not as a distraction from work, but as a benefit to it. For years the worlds of work and play have been seen as separate and distinct; that play is inferior and takes away from ‘real work.’ In fact, many of us have been taught to think of play in the work place as inappropriate and a waste of time.
What if play at work is really a benefit? Let’s be realistic. People get bored. People get distracted. People get frustrated. It happens! Whether it’s just the monotony of routine tasks that demand our attention, or the root of a thorny problem. What employers want is a more positive, energized problem solving workforce. Employees want to enjoy their work, and have permission to do it. Wouldn’t it be great if all employees were having fun while at work?
Helpguide.org in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications have said, “Success at work doesn’t depend on the amount of time you work; it depends upon the quality of your work. And the quality of your work is highly dependent on your well-being.
“Taking the time to replenish yourself through play is one of the best things you can do for your career. When the project you’re working on hits a serious glitch, take some time out to play and have a few laughs. Taking a pause for play does a lot more than take your mind off the problem. When you play, you engage the creative side of your brain and silence your “inner editor,” that psychological barrier that censors your thoughts and ideas. This can often help you see the problem in a new light and think up fresh, creative solutions.”[i]
Other research indicates that play can decrease stress and absenteeism. As employees make time to play, it lessens work related stress. This leads to less sickness absence. On the other side of the coin, it also leads to a more positive attitude and more energized work environment.
Allowing play in the workplace is good for business and employees. The opportunity to play shows employees they’re valued. Employees are therefore more likely to be engaged, collaborative, creative and focused. All better outcomes for the employer. A natural follow-on is that employees are likely to experience more job satisfaction. As Forbes reported, “Last year revenues increased by an average of 22.2 percent for the 2014 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For.”[ii]
Isn’t it about time your staff starting playing?