Should you really encourage playing games at work?
Think back to the companies that you've worked for; that you loved. Those that made you happy. Those jobs that you couldn't wait to get to after waking up.
If that's your current role, congratulations.
There are many reasons you felt that way. We talked about some in Should happiness be a goal at work?, but there are others, like respect and autonomy.
But let's not forget fun.
WHAT?? Fun has no place in a professional work environment!! I want to see heads down. Coding. Eight hours a day OR PREFERABLY MORE.
Yes, I've literally heard that from executives - and witnessed behavior from many more that show they believe it.
We pay you.. you work. Simple. Crank that shit out.
Except it really isn't that simple. People are not solely motivated by money. Studies show that they are consistently more productive when part of a cohesive team that respects them, and ideally building product they believe in.
We'll talk about getting teams believing in your products another time, so let's focus on building a cohesive team.
I often talk about culture - it's the #1 tag I use on my articles for a reason - and a happy and productive culture comes from people wanting to work with one another.
Thinking back to high school days, you probably were a member of some team - sports, band, cheerleading, debate, etc - that fostered camaraderie and long-term relationships.
We can (and should) do that at work too - in a professional environment.
"the easiest way to increase productivity is not providing more vacation, bigger paychecks, or improved benefits. Instead, you should encourage your employees to play more games!"
"Playing games impacts the brain positively by increasing motivation, improving memory, driving efficiency, and at even enhancing feelings of empathy among your team."
What are the real benefits?
Encouraging games in the office may seem counterproductive, but the benefits are huge for your employees and for your company. Setting up lunch-time game sessions, weekly or monthly tournaments or allowing random breaks and you’ll be amazed at how a bit of friendly competition can have such positive effects on your team.
- Relieve stress
- Boost morale
- Improve relationships
- Encourage team-building
- Keep your people longer
- Make it easier to hire new talent
- Increase collaboration
- Increases happiness!
You know hiring the right people and keeping them is critical to your business' success (and losing them very expensive), right?
Other companies are doing it, with great success
In 4 Ways to Create an Irresistible Office Culture Yanic writes:
"Google is famous for this; employees can play a pick-up game of soccer, schedule a massage in the middle of the day, bike around campus and enjoy free food prepared by celebrity chefs."
Does Gaming at Work Improve Productivity? cites Lee Burbage, "internal community chieftan" (sort of like HR director) for the Web site Motley Fool, who offers a similar story. The 200-employee company has a fully outfitted game room, with consoles and even arcade games:
"People need a break. Studies show that if you just sit at your desk all day, productivity goes down and down." He says that gaming also teaches how to think strategically, several moves ahead, and of course it helps with team building, "And hey, it's fun," adds Burbage. "After I go play Halo, I come back and I'm happy and in a good mood."
"Palmer insists the gaming upgrades have improved employee morale, encouraged team building and increased participation in company culture."
"Overall, Palmer said the increased participation rate and engagement from employees has exceeded the company's investment in games. I don't see a ceiling for how much we will spend any time soon," he said."
The list goes on:
- Why Your Employees Need To Play More Games At The Office
- 12 Reasons Why You Should Let Your Employees Play Games
What 'games' are we talking about?
The archetypal tech company games are foosball or table tennis (ping pong to me).
But there are many others. My favorite thing to start at a new company is a regular poker night. (You can drink beer occasionally at your job, right? That's another blog post..)
$20 buy-in, tournament style Texas Hold'em. Love it.
Cornhole tournaments are so much fun, or Quake/Halo marathons after-hours where the office turns into a war zone. Talking of wars - don't forget Nerf guns. Dart boards. Board game evenings. Christmas casino nights.
Ok, when/how do you play games exactly?
Your people are going to be taking a break every few hours anyway, so allow them to make it a fun team-building break. I never mandate good or bad times to take breaks or play games.
At one recent company the table tennis and cornhole were always being used by someone - often while they brainstormed a feature. And that was in a company of only 50-70 people.
Everyone comes back refreshed and ready for another couple hours of focused productivity.
But take some sensible precautions.
- Don't let heads-down workers be distracted by anything, including games
- Move the games away to special areas where noise is contained - or outside
- Encourage mass games at common break times - after lunch, end of day
- Never force games on anyone. Let your team choose what and when to play. Some people will never want to take part, and that's fine. Your aim isn't to alienate anyone.
As an example, I recently bought some new cornhole boards and 12 team double-elimination charts and are collecting team (and team names) to start our first tournament.
Once we have the teams organized we'll simply tell the two teams who are next up, and then leave them to find a suitable time for them to play and report back the score. It may take a week or two to get through all the matches, but I know it will be fun for all who take part.