For some, the boundaries between work and play are blurry. They’ll take any opportunity to have a little fun, and they know that it makes them more productive in the long run. Then there are some who argue that game and play at work are a waste of time and only lead to distractions.
So, which is it? Is play at work a good thing or a bad thing for employees?
Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, states, “when employees have the opportunity to play, they actually increase their productivity, engagement and morale.“
Quoting Dr. Brown to underline the importance of play at work – “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.“
The positive effects of promoting play at work is no hidden secret. Walk in any of the modern large offices and you would find a ping pong table, a foosball table, PlayStation or a wide selection of board games.
The research supports play at work – higher productivity, engagement, motivation. But you don’t really need to refer research reports or shift through data slides. Simply look at the faces and emotions when employees bond together as they play with colleagues.
They seem genuinely happy.
There is laughter and smiling faces.
So yes, if you can, go get that ping pong table, throw in a few bean bags and hang that dart board on one of the walls.
But can you use “play at work” without the physical “play”?
Yes. In the context of work and the benefits mentioned above, certainly Yes.
The Zero Budget Play At Work
You need a separate budget to have a dedicated play area and equipment in the office. A lot of small businesses, though they can afford the equipment, do not have the luxury of a separate play area within their premises.
What you do not need a budget for is introducing “playfulness” at work.
It has the same magic as physical play.
How do you introduce “playfulness at work”?
I have three stories for you from three distinct work environments: The Dancing Dabeli Seller from Mumbai, The Happy Flight Attendant and Billy Bowden, the famous Cricket Umpire.
Kapil – The Dancing Dabeli Seller From Mumbai
In the video above by Curly Tales, Kapil says that children love the way he dances while selling Dabelis and customers of all ages demand that he continues with his trademark snack selling dance. He confesses that his inspiration comes from Mithun Da’s character in the hit Hindi movie Disco Dancer.
The Happy Flight Attendant
This has to be one of the most viral videos from the last few years. Simply listen to all the laughter and the cheers from the passengers.
Given below is a comment from “a captain with a major airline”:
“I’m a captain with a major airline, and while this was entertaining, it was also quite effective because people were paying attention, that was inspiring. Awesome job there Sir.”
Entertaining, effective, people paying attention, inspiring. If airlines have KPIs for in-flight announcements, this gentleman gets the highest scores ever.
The comment from the Captain says it all.
Brent Fraser “Billy” Bowden – The famous Cricket Umpire from New Zealand
Billy is well known for his dramatic signaling style on the cricket field which includes the famous “crooked finger of doom” out signal.
He introduced a whole new fun dimension to umpiring. He entertained the crowd and players with his trademark exaggerated signals, decisions and interactions with players. Umpiring in cricket has to be one the most tedious jobs on field, but Billy ensured he kept the atmosphere light and fun.
What these three extraordinary professionals added to their work environments does not require any additional budget or resources.
With zero budget, they entertained clients, passengers, coworkers, players and the crowd.
With zero budget, they were highly productive and efficient at work. The playfulness and fun did not make them any less efficient.
In fact, Kapil, the Dancing Dabeli sensation, “holds the Limca Book of world record for making the most number of dabelis in 10 minutes”.
Billy Bowden officiated in more than 350 men’s and women’s international cricket matches and in January 2007, became the youngest umpire to officiate in 100 ODIs during the New Zealand and Sri Lanka match at Hamilton, New Zealand.
Playfulness while making others around you happy, does not diminish performance at work. And, you could achieve the remarkable benefits with a zero budget.
Humor and Play at work can lead to happiness, increased productivity, creativity and team bonding.
Dr. Stuart Brown, Founder of the National Institute for Play, has spent his career studying the effects of humor and play on the human brain. According to Dr. Brown, “play is a biological imperative” that is necessary for our overall well-being.
A recent study conducted by Gensler, a global architecture and design firm, found that workplace humor and playfulness were associated with a variety of positive outcomes, such as increased productivity, creativity, and employee satisfaction. In the study, employees were asked to complete a survey rating how playful their workplace was and then rate how satisfied they were with their job, their creativity, and their productivity. The study found that employees who work in more playful environments reported higher levels of satisfaction with their jobs, creativity, and productivity.
Why is workplace humor and playfulness so beneficial?
According to Dr. Brown, laughter and play stimulate the release of neurochemical substances such as endorphins, which improve our moods and have a positive effect on our physical health.
Humor also helps us relax and take a break from our everyday stressors. When we laugh, it not only feels good mentally but physically too – it can help improve our cardiovascular health by reducing stress hormones and increasing oxygen intake.
So don’t be all gloomy and grumpy at work. Add some playfulness to what you do at work.
Share a few jokes. Laugh at coworkers, clients and yourself. Raise a toast to the team prankster. Be one yourself.
Give a raise to the funny guy or girl in your team 😊