Three Ways “Play” Can Positively Impact Work

September 15, 2021

As children we often heard the phrase, there’s a time for work and a time for play. As adults, these lines begin to get blurred and between professional duties, family commitments and daily responsibilities, it can seem that the work is never done. It’s not uncommon for this loop to result in feelings of stress, fatigue, sadness and irritability… all consequences of job burnout. Not only does this hinder employees’ emotional wellbeing, it impacts a company’s bottom line. A survey by Gallup shows that 54% of workers are not engaged and psychologically unattached to their work and company, which ultimately results in dollars lost. So, what is the answer to this problem? According to founder of Breakthrough Play Gary Ware, it’s play. “Neuroscience shows that play is necessary. We’re wired for play,” Ware shares in his TEDx talk. In industries like marketing, where creativity is a necessity, play is a powerful mechanism to keep ideas flowing and camaraderie alive. A concept that all industries can benefit from, here are three ways to boost your team rapport and company culture by using play as a workplace motivator. 

Boosts Happiness Levels  

Embracing the concept of play requires a shift in mindset. Individuals must first embrace the concept of play –– a concept that requires people to change the way they view play from an escape to an essential part of their day to day. Think back to the things you loved to do as a child.

Playing Outdoor Games at Orange Label For Ware, that’s playing with LEGO sets and for many others it’s coloring, hence the resurgence in adult coloring books. Whatever it may be for you, “Make space for it in the present,” Ware explains. “It doesn’t need to take a long time, it can be as short as five minutes.” Taking time to reflect and “follow your compass of joy,” as Ware calls it, can guide you back to the spirit of play, bring out childlike curiosity and inspire creativity. 

As a creative agency, Orange Label’s spirit of wonder remains a powerful part of what we do. Avid believers in the power of play, Orange Label has been holding team events and opportunities to connect outside of a professional setting for the past 20 years. “When the team is engaging in an event or game together, we’re able to connect in a different mindset and our ‘human-side’ becomes more alive. Out of that space, ideas flow more fluidly and create better end results for our clients,” Orange Label President Rochelle Reiter shares. 

Impacts Confidence and Creativity

Inspired by Aristotle’s quote, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Google researchers created a research project dubbed “Project Aristotle” to discover the secret to effective teams at the company. Using over 35 different statistical models on hundreds of variables, researchers found that what mattered most was how the team worked together, not who was on the team. A differentiating factor in teams that work well together is the development of a high psychological safety, meaning they felt safe to take risks and confident that they wouldn’t be seen as ignorant, incompetent, negative or disruptive. 

Video Conference with ZoomBuilding off this, Ware often equips companies with games that build synchronicity within the team. One such game is “alien, tiger, cow,” a variation of “rock, paper, scissors,” where the objective is, instead, to make the same gesture as your partner and high five once you do. Creating alien antennas on your head with your fingers, making a tiger claw gesture or patting your tummy and saying “moo,” are all requirements of the “alien, tiger, cow” game and ways to inspire team members to break out of our shells and share a laugh together, actions that increase dopamine levels and oxytocin and lead to increased focus and trust between one another, Ware explains. In one virtual event this year, the Orange Label team participated in a speakeasy-themed murder mystery experience which tested problem-solving skills, attention to detail, speed and strategy! 

Sustains Productivity 

There can be an immense amount of pressure in the workplace and our daily lives. Pressure to work harder, be more productive and do more. While there is nothing wrong with having a mentality to work hard, Ware cautions against turning life into a “proving ground,” where you have to constantly prove yourself to others and instead look at it as a playground – an opportunity to have fun! “You can only sustain top productivity for a certain amount of time,” Ware says. “After this, you become prone to mistakes.” When you have that moment that you are no longer feeling as fresh or focused, don’t resort to checking your email or scrolling through social media. Instead, take 10 to 15 minutes and do something that will invigorate your mind, such as taking a walk or having something tactile that you can play with. “Do something to take your brain off of what you were focusing on and allow it to rest, because your brain is a muscle and, just like any muscle, when you strain it you need to take time to let it rest afterward,” Ware explains.

With a little planning, Orange Label CEO Wes Phillips says that team events fit right into his schedule and create a renewed sense of teamwork, friendship and productivity. Team Members of Orange LabelOver the years, some of Orange Label COO Debbie Nagel’s favorite team events include scavenger hunts, paint nights and trivia during Agency Olympics. “All of these events, whether in-person or virtual, give us an opportunity to step away from the day to day and share a laugh. Connecting is so important and makes us feel not so isolated, which is particularly important right now. It reminds us that we’re all part of a team – a team that likes to have fun, get work done and perform well for clients,” Nagel says. 

What’s one way that your team can take a break and enjoy time together? To gather more ideas on games to play and solidify the importance of play at work, tune into Orange Label’s upcoming episode of The 19: Entrepreneur Edition with Gary Ware. Subscribe to our newsletter below so you don’t miss it!

Written By: Michelle Komala

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