Did your employees enjoy the chance to play over December? Why stop them now just because business has started again? 
Research has suggested that organisations that provide opportunities for their staff to participate in playful, fun activities inside the workplace reap various rewarded. These benefits extend to the employees, their teams and the company itself.

Games or any other stimulating activity done for the purpose of amusement can actually help workers become more productive. Even if it is just a foosball table in the canteen, a short recess from work for a lively match with a colleague can break the monotony of repetitive duties or alleviate the stress of continuous problem solving. A play-friendly workspace can, therefore, refresh staff, boost morale and increase job satisfaction.  

According to one survey from Salesforce, 86% of executives and employees attribute project failure to lack of communication and collaboration. When playing, workers have the opportunity to mingle, have fun together and challenge one another. That alone strengthens social bonds, enhances communication and fosters collaboration – something companies spend millions on achieving through specially organised team-building events that pull workers away from the office completely.

Having more cohesive teams, manned by happy employees, is a winning formula for organisational productivity and, therefore, profitability. However, although there’s no need to turn it into a games room, play should not stop at the boardroom door. Games have been shown to promote creativity, especially in meetings where it is the skill needed most for developing new strategies. 

Just placing a piece in an unfinished jigsaw puzzle during a break may be all the stimulation the mind needs to put together the solution to a business problem.
Agreeing with a frequent complaint among staff, the latest Gallup survey for Sub-Saharan Africa reported that only 17% of employees in the region feel engaged at work – less than one fifth of the workforce. 

Further research revealed that engaged teams contribute to 21% greater profitability on average. Engagement is, therefore, not only essential to retaining talent but also to improving earnings.

Instead of playing incidentally, companies should embrace a balanced work-play culture. That can be a powerful tool for recruiting and retaining talent. Newer generations of workers are especially attracted to such an environment. While you’re at it, just for fun, try to play a game of 30 Seconds or Trivial Pursuit with candidates at their interview.

In fact, more companies than ever are pushing for valid, reliable and culture-fair game-oriented employee assessments when evaluating job applicants. Unfortunately, South Africa is a little limited in using these techniques to their full benefit because of labour regulations. However, there are companies that are vigorously working on improving the situation.

To get the full benefits of a play-at-work culture, it is important to develop a sensible strategy. A foosball table may become a distraction and a single jigsaw puzzle might end up gathering dust. So, an integral approach is needed where play opportunities flow naturally through business processes, are voluntary and augment work rather than replace it.

Michelle Moss is a director at Signium Africa.

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