According to Gallup, the average full-time worker spends 47 hours a week on the clock. So ponder this for a minute: If work isnäó»t a fun environment, thatäó»s an awful lot of drudgery. Perhaps the grind explains the miserly 32.6 percent of employees who are engaged in their work.
The concept of play at work isnäó»t new. The now-outdated company softball team used toæ be a way for employees to get to know one another outside of work, which translated back into the office with better communication and collaboration. Fun also spawns creative energy and increases employee retention rates. These days, more and more companiesäóîfrom Google to MasterCardäóîare recognizing the importance of integrating play into the workday and have taken the concept much further than softball, encouraging staff to play in a multitude of ways.
But whatäó»s the best way to create a play ethic in the office, especially if you donäó»t have a Google budget or the square footage for ping-pong and foosball tables? Donäó»t worry. Creating a playful workplace and building camaraderie neednäó»t require extravagance. (And if your workforce is made up of millennials, they arenäó»t interested in playing ping-pong at work anyway.)
First, The Rules
1. Play is an invitation, never an obligation: Itäó»s no fun being told to play. (If you were ever told to äóìgo outside and playäó as a kid, you know how those words can dampen the funäóîat least momentarily.)
2. If you want to establish a play ethic, senior-level staff should lead by exampleäóîas they would with any other company value. Otherwise, it will be tough for employees to adopt.
Let the Games Begin
With that foundation in mind, here are a few starter ideas to bring a more playful vibe to the workplace:
Before a meeting begins, identify three or so keywords that will likely be used a few times throughout the session. (Select words appropriate to the meetingäó»s subject.) Then identify an action for each keyword. For example, if äóìfiduciaryäó is established as a keyword, ask everyone to laugh maniacally when itäó»s mentioned (i.e. muahahahah!). Or if the keyword is äóìteam,äó tell the group to high-five one another, switch seats or get up and jump. These absurd responses will bring actions to meetings, as well as ramp up the engagement level as people listen closely for the keywords.æ æ
Collaborative Etch A Sketch
When was the last time you held an Etch A Sketch? And have you ever done a collaborative Etch A Sketch, where two people draw something in tandem, each controlling only one knob? Acquire some classic Etch A Sketches and hold a collaborative Etch A Sketch tournament: Pair people into teams and provide them with a simple drawing to mimic. Set a timer for 5 to 20 minutes, depending on complexity of the drawing, and then hold a judging round to decide on the winning team.
Fantasy Sports Leagues
New research conducted by Penisulaäóîan HR, employment law, and health and safety consultancy in the UKäóîsuggests that fantasy football leagues create an opportunity for employees to connect. Of 800 workers surveyed, 62 percent said that a fantasy football league boosted their morale, and 49 percent found it helped build relationships with colleagues. Fantasy sports leagues can be created for most any sport (baseball, football, basketball, hockey, etc.) and the äóìteam ownersäó can be made up of actual company work teams who choose the athletes together and compete against other departments or teams.
Office Hide N Seek
Without telling your employees or colleagues, gather some random objects that arenäó»t normally found in the office (rubber chickens, bags of candy, stuffed animals, small gift certificates for coffee or books, etc.) and hide them around the office. Wait and see what happens as people discover the hidden surprises one by one.
Incorporating moments of playfulness wonäó»t undermine the seriousness of an organizationäó»s mission, but it can change the pace of things and encourage employees to interact in new ways.