These days, more companies have come to appreciate the value of an office culture that’s willing to be playful.
By encouraging employees to have more fun and occasionally relax at work, companies hope to boost their creativity and productivity. Making the office a fun place to work can also improve things like employee retention and branding.
To that end, companies have been redesigning their spaces to include room for things like actual games, sports, and even bars. These features tend to combine aspects of physical movement and social interaction, each of which has numerous benefits.
Of course, not every office needs to come across as fun and playful. It works better for some industries than others, and there’s always a risk of taking the “fun” vibe too far. But the increasing number of companies that are choosing not to take themselves quite so seriously are also enjoying some serious benefits.
The Benefits of Staying Playful at Work
Before we get into the actual office features that companies are using to encourage play, let’s discuss why you might want to add them. Here are a few of the benefits of loosening up your office culture to encourage your employees to relax on-site.
Quality breaks are essential for employees to operate at their peak potential.
Allison Gabriel, who studies job demands and employee motivation, says this in Entrepreneur:
“When you are constantly draining your resources, you are not being as productive as you can be. If you get depleted, we see performance decline. You’re able to persist less and have trouble solving tasks.”
Research shows that all lengths of breaks may effectively boost productivity, from short micro breaks of 30 seconds to taking actual vacations.
Play breaks may be particularly effective, which won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who understands the joy of play. According to research cited in this Pacific Standard piece, play can “relieve stress, boost creativity, improve brain function, and improve our relationships with other people by fostering trust with others.”
In fact, playful adults may actually be more resilient than their non-playful peers. Lynn Barnett co-authored a study that found that young adults who described themselves as playful reported less stress and better coping skills.
Quoted in The Washington Post, Barnett says, “Highly playful adults feel the same stressors as anyone else, but they appear to experience and react to them differently, allowing stressors to roll off more easily than those who are less playful,” she says.
Better Employee Health
An increasing number of studies link sitting for long periods of time to health problems, from obesity to heart disease to even cancer. The best employers have been doing their part to get their staff moving throughout the work day.
Playful fixtures that encourage movement and even athletics serve the dual purpose of incorporating healthy physical activity and encouraging productivity-boosting breaks.
However, the concept of well-being is increasingly understood to include mental aspects of health, as well, as this SBFI trend piece explains.
There are plenty of ways employers can encourage good mental health, including giving workers personal space and the ability to concentrate. However, one of the best ways to boost mental health is to encourage social interaction and friendships with colleagues. These friendships can make work much more enjoyable, and are facilitated by office features that encourage social games and activities.
Procurement platform Coupa was featured in this Entrepreneur piece on inspiring workplaces for its playful, fun features like toys and beer on tap.
Quoted in the article, CEO Rob Bernshteyn explains that having an office space that employees want to spend time in and don’t mind bringing their families to on the weekend encourages more collaboration and community. It makes sense, as the article explains:
“When two employees stop for a quick game of ping-pong, it’s not unusual for others to stop by and, soon, they’re having an impromptu meeting. Team members stick around for a beer after work and brainstorm about clients. When project demands bring employees to the office on weekends, they bring their families: Kids play with the toys while spouses play some ping-pong.”
When your brand clearly reflects your company’s values, you will attract the best clients and hires for your business. So, if part of your company’s identity involves being being playful, fun, or even whimsical, your office should reflect those qualities.
Incorporating some of the elements listed below can be a great way to send a clear message about your office culture and make a distinct impression on office visitors.
Plus, when existing employees feel connected to coworkers and enjoy coming to the office (much more likely when they’re not figuratively shackled to their chairs for eight hours), they’re more likely to stay long-term and refer their friends for jobs.
A Few Playful Office Features to Consider
Want to get a little more playful in your office space? Here are a few features to consider adding:
This Payscale article sums up some research that climbing, in particular, is a good form of exercise for boosting cognitive abilities:
“Researchers from the University of North Florida found that ‘dynamic activities’ like climbing a tree, even when done for a short period of time, can have dramatic effects of working memory, which helps us process and learn new things, solve problems, etc. This is probably true because this kind of exercise keeps us thinking and navigating obstacles.”
Although these huge office features aren’t exactly new in the Silicon Valley office scene, the message they send is hard to miss.
Besides making a statement that your company values play (and has invested in it), these fixtures look cool and encourage employees to skip the elevator. As this article shows, there’s an office slide out there for every style, from playground-like primary colors to classy wooden styles, to treehouse slides for biophilic offices.
This particular office feature doesn’t come with any physical health benefits. However, you could certainly argue that a few beautifully designed office spaces built exclusively for the purpose of socializing could be good for mental wellness.
Plus, office bars don’t have to be all about booze; many also serve coffee and other drinks so that there’s something for everyone. Here’s some inspiration to get you started.
Games, Toys, and Gaming Areas
All of the following have been implemented at offices for the purpose of play: Nerf guns, ball pits, Legos, arcade games, and putting greens. Some companies have dedicated game rooms, and some simply put the games in common areas. Table games such as ping pong, pool, or even air hockey can be nice additions if you have the space.
For more ideas, Mashable put together a good list of playful workspaces.
If you’re looking for a fun feature somewhere in between a huge dual atrium slide and a box of Legos, you may consider an outdoor sports feature. Outdoor basketball or volleyball courts can get a lot of use in areas with more temperate climates. Other companies feature walking paths ideal for walk-and-talk meetings. At Patagonia, employees regularly go surfing.Companies that choose not to take themselves quite so seriously are enjoying some serious benefits. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet
Efforts to make employees feel comfortable, healthy, and productive will vary quite a bit based on your own brand, values, and goals. If these active office trends don’t apply to your own culture, use them for inspiration to find your own way to add a bit more playfulness to the office.
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