By Andy Beresford
Play has been a crucial part of our evolution as human beings, and studies show that individuals deprived of play as children become depressed, dysfunctional and even sociopathic as adults. But play is not something that loses its power to educate and stimulate as we grow up. It’s been proven that play enhances our sense of well-being and continues to support our development throughout life.
Companies that have used this information to their benefit and invested in creating a sense of fun and playfulness at work have seen productivity, employee retention and workplace satisfaction improve dramatically.
From neon slides, climbing walls and foosball to work outings and volleyball tournaments, companies like Google, Skype and LinkedIn have all embraced the notion that all work and no play makes for a dull and less productive average employee. Here are five reasons to follow their lead.
Playing games has been proven to lower stress levels by relieving pressure and releasing endorphins and serotonin. All this leads to greater competence and increased productivity.
As a U.K. game room specialist, I've seen a rise in the number of game room games being bought by U.K. companies. More and more U.K. firms want to improve their work culture and are seeing great results from encouraging this kind of group play between colleagues. I know from personal experience that just 15 minutes of pinball or a couple of rounds of ping pong in the middle of a busy working day can help people to take the edge off the stress and deal effectively with work challenges.
You’re using both your left and right brain for starters, and there is evidence from animal studies that engaged play opens new neural connections in the brain: “All sorts of creative new connections are made when you’re playing that otherwise would never be made,” says Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play, a science-based organization that is dedicated to unlocking human potential through play in all stages of life. Play creates a state of ‘flow’ which means that the censoring of thoughts and psychological barriers are dropped, leading to an increase in creative ideas and innovation.
And it’s true that there is something about playing a game with someone that transcends the usual boundaries of verbal etiquette and gets straight to the heart of things. Creative and physical play accelerates human bonding and encourages connectivity between colleagues and clients. Numerous studies reveal that having friends at work is a bigger incentive for staying than salary, and that clients are loyal to companies they have good relationships with.
According to a recent study, a proper belly laugh releases a surge of heart-healthy biological triggers: Endorphins activate receptors on the surface of our blood vessels which in turn release nitric oxide. Widening blood vessels, and increasing blood flow, this lessens inflammation, reduces the formation of cholesterol plaque and helps prevent heart disease.
So, invest in a game room game, throw some puzzles and felt pens on the board room table, organize a games tournament, a comedy night or a bowling trip, and give people permission to play and have fun. It could transform your work culture, improve the health of your employees and be very good for your business’ bottom line.
Image credit: Flickr/sukiweb
Andy Beresford is Managing Director of Home Leisure Direct and an award-winning U.K. game room specialist.