It sounds counter intuitive, but playing games could actually help your employees be more productive.
5 min read
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I used to shake my head when I walked around my office and noticed employees playing games. Clearly they must not be productive members of our team, I used to think. Instead of playing games, they should be working to further our company goals.
Sometimes I would address the issue. I’d ask the employee to join me in a conference room and would confront them about playing games. I’d ask if they didn’t have other work to do, pointing out how it could be a distraction for others and how it makes a poor impression on the rest of the team.
I don’t believe my approach was necessarily wrong, but it was certainly hypocritical. As a company, we preached being goal-oriented and trusted our team to manage their time appropriately. Why was I overthinking employees playing games when their work was high-quality and they hit their goals?
Then, I founded a company that ties playing classic games to brain training, so I did a 180 and actually began encouraging employees to take game breaks. I’ve noticed it’s been an asset to our team for a number of reasons, especially as we’ve moved to a remote setup over the last few weeks. Here are three research-backed reasons you should make playing games part of your remote leadership strategy.
1. Games relieve stress in a troubling time
We consistently hear from our employees that this crisis is psychologically stressful. They’re worried about the economy, their careers, their families and getting ill.
Studies show that games can help manage and reduce stress. It makes sense too. Games can take our mind away from everyday worries. Instead of growing anxious about all the uncertainty around us, we can escape through a game. Today, the best companies not only support their employees’ career goals, but they also support their general well-being. We regularly tout the benefits of games to support our employees inside and outside of work.
However, playing a game is not a quick fix for managing stress — it should be something you do regularly. Games where you tend to a garden or farm can help with day-to-day relaxation. GameRules is a great resource for picking a game you’ll like.
2. Games can improve productivity
It’s one thing to embrace games as a means to manage general work and life stress, but it seems counterintuitive to play them at work. Surprising research shows that playing games helps with stress at work. Work brings cognitive fatigue, which impacts productivity. It’s something like having writer’s block, but in the workplace. This type of mental stress can hinder you from generating your best ideas and work.
I found that moving to a remote setup actually exacerbated work stress for our team. Along with a regular workload, they have to communicate more and deal with distractions in their households. So we decided to institute a policy to end meetings five or 10 minutes early and ask our team to either play a game of solitaire (one of our company games) or another game of their choice. It might sound like a strange policy, but our goal is to create a process where our team is forced to cognitively disengage. As a gaming company, games are a natural way to do that.
We’ve been conducting employee engagement surveys weekly as of late, and our employees said that this policy was one of the best we’ve implemented since the crisis began.
3. Games help remote teams socialize
We’re social animals by nature. In the office, you can spontaneously strike up conversations, joke around and have lunch together. But companies that have moved to a remote setup face a new reality. There is no more proverbial water cooler talk or “Hey, how was your weekend?” elevator conversations. This can have an impact on morale.
Fortunately, games have a history of being used as team-building tools, whether that’s a company outing to an escape room or a visit to a bowling alley around the holidays. Just because we’re at home doesn’t mean we can’t engage socially as a team in fun ways.
For example, one Friday afternoon we held a TypeRacer tournament to finally discovered who was the fastest typist on our team. Judging by the number of memes that flooded Slack afterward, the virtual team-building event was a success. Think creatively to find ways to engage your team.
From socialization, to wellness, to productivity, games can have a place in your company and can help transition to a remote setup. However, they have the potential to be a distraction as well. Set clear expectations on when and why employees can play games, and you’ll take your company to the next level.