Playing at Work to Build Your Team

by Marcianne Kuethen
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If you want to attract and keep great employees, try playing at work to build your team! Besides salary, work/life balance is the most important determining factor when Millennials consider job opportunities. Employers who want engaged, connected team members are learning the benefits of working less and playing more, both inside and outside the office.

Benefits of Playing at Work to Build Your Team

So how can playing more at work improve your company’s productivity and bottom line? Here are three benefits:

1. Healthier Employees

The opposite of playing is overworking. Remember that old saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” If absenteeism, employee burnout, and low employee engagement are dragging down your employees’ productivity, consider this from Indeed.com: “Overworked employees are more likely to suffer from mental and physical health problems, which in turn impacts productivity, increases turnover and drives up insurance costs. Aware of this, some companies are offering more generous parental leave packages, flexible work hours and remote working opportunities.”

Not every employer can afford to pay extra leave or restructure, and not every type of work can accommodate remote workers. That’s okay–intentionally providing a positive, caring environment is a happy, viable alternative.

2. More Connected Employees

Do different departments within your company fail to communicate with each other? Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite, implemented a “blind date” peer-to-peer coffee date system at his company. It combatted the silo effect and jumpstarted workers from different departments into talking. Holmes offers many creative suggestions for connecting employees, such as potlucks with a competitive edge (the “guac off”). My favorite? Give two departments a budget of a few hundred dollars to plan a party for the entire company every month. Not only does this increase interaction among team members, but it creates a strong sense of belonging. At year’s end, everyone votes for the best bash, giving bragging rights to the winning team and strengthening the company’s culture.

3. Stronger Company Culture

We took our Amtec team out for bowling and tasty barbecue at Big Al’s recently. My knees are still swollen and my right shoulder aches, but it was a blast even though my score was deplorable. Here’s what one of our recruiters told us afterward: “I’ve worked for two companies before this, million-dollar companies that had plenty of money to spend on outings. One of them arranged for us to go bowling, but they didn’t provide any food. All the employees bowled and went straight home. But look,” he pointed out. “The bowling is done, and half your team is still here hanging out and having fun. That really says something about your company.”

There’s a reason our photo bulletin board at the officde says, “Fam-tec.” It doesn’t take big bucks to create a strong company culture. You just need a leader who cares about creating a safe, happy environment where people feel like they belong.

Ways People Play

Wondering how to introduce playing at work to build your team? Here are some actual activities and scenarios that workplaces around us have created, ranging from homespun to over-the-top:

  • Employees turn in their key rings, and everyone has to guess which key ring belongs to which worker.
  • The whole team and their families are invited over to the CEO’s house to barbecue, play volleyball, and swim.
  • Employees each choose a movie title that represents them the best. Everyone else must guess who goes with each title.
  • Team members create a homemade festival with bean bag tosses and treats.
  • The company offers flexible work and a “fun fund” to support celebrations and entertaining activities. Not only that, but employees get the day off for their birthdays.
  • The office features a dedicated non-workspace such as a patio, lounge, or rooftop just for hanging out, having impromptu lunches, and after-hours drinks. (At Amtec, we have a foosball room where competition is fierce!)
  • The office has a slide, a ball-pit, puppies running around, free breakfast, a white room with waterfalls, a beanbag room, sleep pods, a basketball hoop, and a fully stocked bar.

Playing at work to build your team might sound counterintuitive. And it won’t mean much unless you already have a mission, a commitment to employees, a healthy work environment, says Holmes. “But, in many respects, a company culture is the sum total of the little things. It’s whatever makes someone excited to come to work at the start of the week, rather than indifferent. Creating this atmosphere doesn’t require a huge budget or elaborate perks, but it does require genuine attention and interest from management. Great cultures may be born organically, but to grow and thrive they need support.”

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