The idea of people ‘playing’ in the office is often frowned upon or thought of as a ‘waste of time’ or even disruptive. In the adult world play is often thought of as silly, childish or a misuse of time, effort or skill within a busy schedule.

Yet we encourage children to play as a form of learning, because it enhances cognitive development, concentration skills, ripens curiosity and improves problem-solving skills. Through play children are encouraged to discover, innovate, explore, conquer fears, learn communication, develop negotiation skills, and grow capabilities that lead to enriched self-confidence, resilience and authenticity.

Play is an integral part of life when we are young.
Organisations want, and even demand innovation, creativity, curiosity and new ideas to be produced. We know from West, Hoff and Carlsson (2013) in their research to investigate the links between playfulness and output, that creativity and productivity are greatly enhanced when playfulness occurred. Businesses rely on creativity and innovation to excel and gain a powerful competitive edge in the market. Therefore, playfulness at work contributes strongly to success.

Employees who experience the freedom to engage in playfulness, will produce more robust problem-solving ideas, have higher levels of productivity, experience less stress, and have stronger connections with their colleagues. When we engage in fun activities or play, we increase our productivity up to 20%.

Play is an ideal state of mind for creativity and learning to exist, because the mind focuses on the means (procedure, journey, or current activity) and not the end. The end (result or outcome) is understood as secondary. Fear of failure is absent and players feel free to incorporate new sources of information and experiment with new ways of doing.

Play is an essential part of a child’s life and then slowly but surely the acceptance of play is whittled away.  Becoming an adult is associated with serious business, hard work and responsibilities that do not warrant ‘play time’. For most people anyway!

Play refers to being in a state of enjoyment, engaging in activities that values the means. The Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi identifies this notion of being driven by the means as ‘Autotelic’. This term refers to being in a state of flow during the activity without a need to focus on the outcome or endpoint. It is the enjoyment of the doing and being that brings joy, not the outcome or result. The individual playing is not distracted by a ‘fear of failure’ because they are focused on the activity in the present moment and not the future outcome.

Now play does not mean you have to install a slide in the office (even though that would be fun and some organisations have done this), throw balls at each other or create pandemonium in the office.  So, what can play in the office look like?

A good place to start is diversity of methods, diversity of thought, and diversity of practice. This can include getting together with a group of people of your own choosing to nut out a problem, or getting together with a team you wouldn’t usually connect with to discuss a topic. Hold meetings in unusual locations to inspire different thinking, include and play with stress relieving toys, balls, gadgets in the next meeting or have them on your desk. Set yourself up in an environment that brings out the best in you. This may mean going to a café, sitting by the window with a view, locating yourself in an environment that allows you to imagine, or discovering new ideas or ways of doing. You may wish to engage in movement (dance, stretch, walk) to engage your creativity and innovation. Make sure you have resources and facilities available for play and fun to occur.

Working in an environment that encourages playfulness, allows for moments of genius and gives us a competitive edge.  It is in those moments where you will experience freedom of thought, be able to express your authentic capabilities, and allow yourself to be captivated in a moment of curiosity, creativity and wonder.

Play is essential in every day.

Take a moment today to engage in play and increase the productivity in your life!