by Josh Millar
Though it might not be the first strategy that comes to mind when considering how to increase productivity, recent studies have shown play to be a valuable productivity tool. This is especially important insight for managers and leaders looking to create a workplace where employees really thrive. Though we often take a disciplined approach to amping up productivity, incorporating play into the workday encourages us try a different route. The results are impressive.
One of the largest obstacles in the way of greater productivity is stress. And unfortunately, many attempts to increase productivity increase stress as well. We’re so determined to work harder and faster, but we often sabotage ourselves with the stress that those goals create. This is a key benefit of play. When there is space for employees to disconnect from their work and use their minds in different ways, they have the opportunity to decompress. When they return to work, their stress levels are lower, and that helps them to work more efficiently.
Part of this idea of play is about groups and teamwork. It’s playing with other people in the office. Some studies used a multiplayer video game, for example, as their play activity. This is a great way for employees to get to know each other in a more general context. If the conversation is always about work, it can be slow going to build a strong relationship. Play gives people the opportunity to break down some of the barriers we put up in the workplace and get to know each other in a more authentic way. Collaborative play also gives employees a chance to work together towards a common goal which is great practice for building a true team dynamic in the office. The sense of collaboration helps employees better understand the value of their own role in relation to the whole which often increases motivation.
Play asks us to use our brains in new ways. It’s about creativity and problem-solving in a pressure-free environment. These skills translate. They can help us look at problems from new perspectives and create solutions more efficiently. They also boost our memory and engagement. Even in jobs that seem very analytical, creativity can be an asset. It often fuels innovation and improvements that can lead to greater success.
Finally, play tends to make us happy. And happiness often supports productivity. When employees have time to play, their elevated mood can help them to feel more engaged in and satisfied by the work their doing. These feelings make them want to invest and give their best. It’s not just on an individual level. Play can help to build and maintain a culture where all employees feel that satisfaction and drive.
It turns out that play isn’t just for kids. It can have real benefits for adult professionals, especially when it comes to their productivity. Play certainly doesn’t fall naturally into most workdays, so it’s up to managers to carve out the space for it. Things like occasional office games and tournaments, fun events, and creative activities in meetings are all ways to introduce a bit of play in the office. Do you have any other ideas for how leaders can bring more play into the workday? Share them in the comments!