‘All work and no play’ used to be the way of life for the busy worker – in at 8 a.m. (or earlier) and out at 6 p.m. (or later), bleak images from Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times spring to mind, of busy trains, busier offices and even busier streets.
But in the 21st century, the game has changed. With an influx of extra-curricular activities in the workplace – breakout rooms, slides, pool tables and games consoles to name but a few – have we moved to a ‘less work and more play’ lifestyle? Or is it simply a change in how people work?
Take the humble ping pong table. It’s actually been a standard in some tech offices for longer than the noughties have existed – having been brought in during the 90s in the US. These levels of social engagement and fun in the workplace have shown a positive effect on workers’ productivity – not only will they stick around in the office for longer of an evening, they display higher levels of teamwork and a more active brain. In fact, based on a study we conducted at Bounce, 78% of workers believe that activities such as ping pong increase a worker’s happiness and productivity. No wonder it’s known in some circles as ‘chess on steroids’.
Recent research also shows that these playful activities make people feel younger than their true age – and this helps them to achieve more personal career goals – which, in turn, leads to better business success. For many, it might not even be the participation in any of these activities, but merely having the option to break out with colleagues at any point that leads them to feel slightly more valued as employees and – potentially – not as overworked.
It is as important for employees to be treated like humans as it is for them to be treated like workers; by holding social and emotional health in as high a regard as their ability to work hard, one can look to retain the workforce for a longer period of time – and have a happier group of people too.
Through this culture of ‘playfulness’ – to have it as a perk within a company, and to actually follow through with it as a concept – it will bring across the idea that a company is forward-thinking. This will fundamentally mean that more talented employees, who are looking for the best places to work, will be likely to apply, to work hard each and every day, and ultimately to stay longer at the company.
It could be said that this methodology of ‘playfulness’ may not work across all sectors; increasingly, it is the ‘younger tech company’ that is closing its offices on a Friday afternoon for drinks, or organising an away day to play zorb football. Maybe older companies, in other sectors, could take their cue from this – a level of camaraderie in the office would mean more active brains, a bit of friendly ribbing about a loss the day after, and a more creative and cohesive workforce.
Is it the case that a brutal work culture will bring the bottom line up? Surely profits don’t matter as much as the people that make those profits. I think that investing in social engagement and creating an office culture that encourages social interaction and engagement would be beneficial for business. We’re part of a younger workforce than recent generations, and this brings with it young minds and a different way of working. Out with the workplace, I say, and in with the workPLAYce.
Adam Breeden is co-founder of Bounce, Flight Club, All Star Lanes and more social entertainment concepts.