Are 'playful' people more productive?

What would make you more productive; the incentive of a large bonus, the ability to work remotely, more responsibility or, perhaps, the freedom to engage your playful side in the workplace?

In this article you will learn:

  • The impact of play on a business.
  • How 'playing' in the office can benefit health and wellbeing.
  • The approach of different generations to play at work.

Most of us, it’s fair to assume, would like to be more productive. However given a choice of the above how many of us would opt for the chance to play games in the office over more money or the ability to work remotely? While the sight of bean bags, an Xbox and table football in a workspace might result in eye rolls, research tells us that building in these distractions is doing much more than simply pandering to a start-up culture trend.

How much do Millennials and Baby Boomers value fun?

That said, it’s important to note that by 2025 almost three quarters of the workforce in the UK and US will be made up of millennials - a generation (typically born between 1981 and 1996) of office based workers who are clearly now accustomed to playful workplace perks. The It Pays to Play report from BrightHR underlines the fact that among this generation there is a collective agreement that this is the right way for businesses to operate, with 79 per cent believing it’s important to have fun at work and 44 per cent of the belief that this encourages a better work ethic.

This is in stark contrast to Baby Boomers, those employees born between 1946 and the mid-60s, with a little over half that generation (56 per cent) believing fun at work is important and just 14 per cent drawing a link between play and productivity.

"Work is no longer about getting the job done and then going home for your fun - younger generations want to enjoy their work too," commented Professor Sir Cary Cooper, who worked on the study.

"It could be because we work longer hours, have to wait longer for retirement and have less financial security from work, meaning we need to get some other return for our time investment. When it comes to generational differences about workplace fun and willingness to partake, they are likely to be linked to beliefs and values about work."

The importance of distractions

Meanwhile, research from Kansas State University has found that employees who take regular breaks of one to two minutes throughout the working day to play games, such as Angry Birds, report being happier than their colleagues who remained focused on the task at hand. But is the fact that people are happy to accept a distraction from their work actually resulting in increased productivity?

Yes, according to further research from the University of Warwick, which points towards the fact that creating a playful work atmosphere can result in a 12 per cent spike in productivity amongst happy workers, while unhappy workers can expect a 10 per cent slump in their output.


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