Goofing Off Can Be Good For Business
Maybe you’ve heard rumors about the unique working environments at many of today’s best-known technology companies. This Time photo essay is a pretty good confirmation that the “work” day at Google, for one example, has a pretty healthy dose of fun mixed in. And you can put the accent on “healthy” in that last sentence. Because instead of being jealous, or looking down our noses at those whimsical environments full of games and recreation, we should be learning from them.
Plenty of studies in the last few years have pretty much confirmed that taking breaks and having fun in the course of the work day do affect productivity; they enhance it. They can even have a very positive effect on the health (mental and physical) of your employees.
Play, especially with other people involved and away from phones, tablets and other electronic screens, brings several very real benefits.
5 Benefits of Play for Adults
- It Lowers Stress. Quite simply, it’s fun. For the same reasons people need extended vacations every year, they need mini vacations throughout the day. Stress can have a paralyzing impact on an adult, especially in working situations. A little play time can be refreshing, like hitting a “reset” button, and allow the person to return to a functional and productive state. It’s also “chemical” –play can trigger the release of endorphins, the body’s natural tool to feel better.
- It Engages the Brain. It may seem like stopping to play is turning off your brain, but it’s quite the opposite. Rather than continuing to bang your head against a troubling problem, it can be helpful to challenge your brain in another direction. That can get things flowing again, and help you look at that problem a little differently once you return to it. Early-childhood experts have shown that children learn better through play; that may be equally true for adults. Play, in the form of games, puzzles and the like, also helps keep the brain sharp. That can be important well beyond the work day; studies have shown these activities can help fortify the brain to ward off symptoms of Alzheimer’s and other diseases down the line.
- It Spurs Creativity. Play stimulates parts of the brain that aren’t engaged during normal task work. The traditional work environment (and life in general) can train your brain to limit itself to accepted, proven trains of thought. By putting those aside for a period, you stimulate your imagination and take away those curbs. There’s a reason you’ve heard so many stories about the great ideas that have occurred to people in the shower, or on the train, or in the stands of a baseball game. That may be because that stuffy little filter in your brain is taking some time off, too.
- It Builds Relationships and Social Skills. You don’t have to be the guy wearing the lampshade. But fun is infectious, and people tend to welcome the playful, good-natured person who enters the room. Since play generally involves the mutual enjoyment of an activity, it builds bonds with others and improves the interactions among people and groups. When you see that others enjoy the same things you do, you naturally feel more in common with them. At the same time, a game or challenge teaches you how to work with others, or to compete with them in a friendly and socially appropriate way. That training can come in handy during the next business-related discussion.
- It Increases Energy. This is a pretty simple one. When you have fun, you are renewed. This “recharge” can boost the productivity of individuals or whole office teams, and head off that tired feeling or sense of sameness that can creep into any workplace. A fresh start doesn’t have to be limited to once a day when you incorporate play into the picture.
I don’t look at play as just another weapon to increase productivity; I think of it as a basic need for human beings, and last time I checked, that’s what almost all the people who work at Superior Business Solutions are! (Sorry, just being playful there.)
It’s clear that adults need to play and have fun as much as children do, and there are plenty of ways to add it to your workplace. It could be through bigger things, like ball games or golf outings. Or it might involve smaller ones, like pot luck luncheons or friendly office competitions. It’s really about the atmosphere, like at those dot-coms we started with. Have a chess set or a jigsaw puzzle laying around – and make it clear you don’t mind people using them. Mostly, it’s a tone you can set. Send out a funny memo now and then, if it fits your personality. Naturally it’s all about business, but your business is better when you attract and keep good employees. A playful atmosphere will help you do that.
How do you add fun to your workplace? If you have good ideas or stories to share, I’d love to hear about them. I’ll keep a list and maybe pass along ideas at a later time. If you’d like some thoughts on fun little items for your employees, or to keep around your workplace, we can help with that, too. Now, get to work – and go play.