Playworks for every kid

All work and no play? There’s a better way...

Guest blogger Tracy Spielberger tells how play positively affects the workplace.
December 14, 2011

Today’s guest post comes from Tracy Spielberger, a recent sociology major from northern New Jersey. She became an enthusiastic advocate for play after writing her thesis on the topic of adult play in the workplace. Tracy now reflects on the topic on her blog and on Twitter.

What adjectives come to mind when thinking about play? Some common responses may be: fun, imaginative, enchanting, elusive, and creative. What if I were to tell you that when play is incorporated into the workplace, it could also be described as: productive, healthy, innovative, and profitable? By shifting our business model to one that embraces play, we can revitalize the work environment, decrease stress, and promote fresh creativity and job satisfaction! Here are just some of the benefits of promoting a playful workplace:

1) Play can increase productivity, innovation, and creativity. Incorporating play into the workplace produces valuable results. Risk taking, confidence in presenting novel ideas, and embracing unusual and fresh perspectives are common characteristics associated with play that are also integral to a successful work environment.

2) Play can increase job satisfaction, well-being, and strengthen social bonds. Employees experiencing positive emotions are more cooperative, more social, and perform better when faced with complex tasks. Encouraging play will increase employee happiness, and happier workers have been shown to be more productive.

3) Play can decrease absenteeism, stress, and health care costs. Allowing play not only shows employees that they are valued, it also helps them lead a more balanced life. The activity and stimulation involved in play lessens the stress of work, which leads to less illness and a more positive attitude.

Play in the workplace can manifest in various forms. Businesses that support play may allow a recess-like period where employees can explore creative outlets and pursue independent activities. These workplaces may also offer playful amenities like rock climbing walls, game rooms, or scooters for transportation. When an employer does not support play, employees who recognize the benefits it has on their performance and well-being can still find ways to incorporate it into their workday. Creating a more playful environment at work can be as easy as putting a toy on your desk!

With a paradigm shift in workplace views on play, we can change the way a meaningful and successful work experience is defined. The emphasis should not only be on monetary gain and economic success, but on leading balanced lives. Employees who are happier and healthier have been shown to perform better on the job... and play can be a catalyst for these advantages!

Play is productive... especially in the workplace! There is no reason you should ever outgrow the need for play.

Does your workplace value play? Does your CEO/leader energize the workplace, and bring a playful and innovative style to encourage collaboration and teamwork? Nominate her/him for Most Playful CEO of 2012!