Let’s get one thing straight: Play isn’t just kid stuff. There’s a science to how we play, and it affects our lives in important ways—from how we work to what we find fulfilling. In fact, some social scientists suggest play might be the most important work we do.
After Netflix and Hulu dropped dueling documentaries, the world is on Fyre. At every office, coffee shop, and happy hour, people can’t stop talking about Fyre Festival. And for good reason—what a complete and unmitigated disaster.
I don’t usually care much for these designated holidays. But National Girls & Women in Sports Day? You got me there. I’ll play.
Right now, there’s a buzz of excitement around the entire company—every office, every city, every single person is pumped. And I’m not just saying that. It’s REAL. You can feel the energy in every meeting, message, and email.
Depression and anxiety can be terrifying. But if you want to feel better, you don’t have to face them alone. In fact, research shows it’s better that you don’t.
Instead of traveling down the winding road of recovery by yourself, what if you had a team behind you? What if you had a group of people invested in your well-being, regularly engaging with you on a meaningful level, all while playing a fun game you enjoy?
Maybe you already went all-out for your company’s summer picnic. Maybe you spared no expense on planning the company holiday party. But we get it — the Fun Committee’s budget might be looking a little meager by this time of year.
To some, budgeting and planning are boring. To most they’re stressful. But to all, they’re a whole lot of work.
As the experts in Play At Work, we’re here to give you tips on how you can start to enjoy and be more creative, productive, and innovative as you think about where to spend next year.
You’ve got a million things going on. You’re on other committees. You’ve got sales in the pipeline. And that’s on top of your regular day-to-day work. Planning the picnic or holiday party isn’t exactly in your job description.
Step away from the tinsel. Turn off the holiday playlist. And whatever you do, do NOT say one word about S-N-O-W. We know ’tis NOT quite the season just yet, but the companies that are really on top of their game are already making their holiday party plans. And we’re here to help make yours the most meaningful, impactful holiday party you’ve ever had.
Your idea might be half baked, but it also might be fully genius. So you ask the bartender for a pen, scribble it down on a bar napkin, and continue laughing with friends over a cocktail. You never really know when the muse will visit, which is why the “back of the napkin idea” has become a universal adage.
On the 10 year anniversary of 9/11, ZogSports founder and CEO, Robert Herzog, wrote the below letter to our community. As we reflect on our upcoming 15 year anniversary (ZogSports was founded in September 2002), we wanted to re-share his letter as a reminder of why we do what we do, and why each of you matter to us.
Every year, over one hundred thousand people play ZogSports. Most people play for the love of the sport, but the Zog impact is so much bigger than that. When we asked our community why they play, people shared everything from “Zog has given me a community” to “I can’t imagine not knowing the people I met playing with Zog” to even “ZogSports changed my life.” Our hope is that you, too, can build lasting connections and be a part of our caring community.
As we continue to grow with the launch of a new company culture business (more info coming your way soon), we’ll always stay true to our founding story and why we do what we do. Our goal is to create connections, build community, and infuse play into your life. We hope you feel this as part of our community — especially on a day like today.
Continue reading to hear from our founder and CEO on how we came to be and why our community is so important to us.
Reflections on 9/11 — ZogSports 15 Year Anniversary
Dear Zog extended family,
My thoughts are with those of you who lost friends and family on 9/11. I can’t imagine how hard this must be for you. I want to thank those of you who have reached out to me this week. I’ve been touched by the stories that people have shared about the impact ZogSports has had on their lives and encourage you to continue sharing those stories with us.
As I personally reflect on the 15 year anniversary of 9/11, I am emotional and torn. On the one hand, I still think about how close I was to dying that day and how many people and their families were not as lucky as me. On the other, I think about how my post-9/11 epiphany to help bring people together and build community led me to create ZogSports. That in turn helped me and hopefully many others heal and brought a sense of normalcy and fun back to the lives of thousands of people.
After 9/11, I vowed that my life would never be the same and it hasn’t. If you don’t know it, here is the story of how I got there.
Story of My Close Call and Pina Colada Epiphany
Many of you have heard me tell this story. I got a new job as the VP of Operations for Marsh & McLennan’s internet group in July 2001. My office was on the 96th Floor of World Trade Center Tower 1 (North Tower). So on September 11, I got off the subway and came outside at 8:45am in time to hear a loud explosion, look up and see a gaping hole in the side of the building where my office had been. None of the 297 people from Marsh who were already at work survived. I don’t know how long I stood there, but after the 2nd plane hit, mass hysteria broke out and I ran. I met up with my girlfriend (now wife) at her office and we walked home desperately trying to make sense of what had happened.
There are dozens of things I did that sunny Tuesday morning that I usually didn’t do — many of which were because we changed our vacation in Yosemite National Park to the week after Labor Day (not before) because there were no accommodations available. I hit the snooze button twice, dropped off my laundry, picked up my held mail (and stopped to toss the junk mail), took the local C train instead of the Express (A) and numerous other small decisions that added up to me showing up 5 minutes late.
Three months later, I’m sitting on the beach with a pina colada in my hand lamenting about how terrible my life was: I closed down the internet company I was helping run, laid off 30 people who reported to me, was unemployed and then almost got hit by a plane. My glass was half empty. I decided to view it as half full. I thought about all the good things that had happened that year. I met my wife playing co-ed softball. I played in numerous other leagues and while I loved the sports and camaraderie part, thought that they were poorly organized and had disrespectful customer service. I could do better. Finally, I saw people like us being selfless and inspired to give back. That was the moment. I decided to combine sports, social and charity and create ZogSports. Our goal that day is the same as it is now — to create connections, build caring communities, and infuse play into people’s lives.
All of this inspires what we do every day and how we do it. I hope that as you reflect on the tragedy and loss of 9/11, you are comforted to know that we were there too and will continue to be here for you.
Thank you for being part our community.
Robert Herzog, Founder and CEO, ZogSports
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.zogsports.com
The most common question we get from new clients is “Do you have any tips to create teams for our upcoming company event?” Yes, yes we do.
Below are our team creation guidelines to use the next time you’re creating teams for your upcoming company event:
- While numbers matter, visibility matters more
Despite what research says, there’s no magic number for optimal team size. A Fortune study listed 4.6 as the ideal group size, but we’re not sure what happened to the other .4 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The main point is this: create teams where everyone gets a chance to know everyone else’s name.
Depending on the dynamics of a group, this may be ten people, or it may be thirty people. Create a space where everyone has a voice and can be seen.
2. Mix it up
Company events are the perfect time for your employees to get to know people they may not normally have the chance to work. The graphic designer is no longer “just that guy who sits at that table” and the CEO may become a relatable team player. Deliberately placing employees on teams with people they may not know allows for new connections and expanded networks across the company.
3. Assign roles
Have you ever been asked to make a decision in a group, though there was no clear leader in the room? When in this situation, it often starts with silence until one person steps up and proposes a direction. The conversation takes many turns, though ultimately may lead to a final decision. In this instance, a leader naturally arises.
When you have less time for a company event, we suggest designating a leader for each team so that the leader can bring clarity, direction and organization to the team. Our challenge to you is assign the captain role to people who are seeking new leadership opportunities. It’s a chance for them to shine and test out their leadership skills.
You may also want to assign other roles such as a scribe or a co-captain, depending on the activity and dynamics of the group.
4. Create a team name and a social contract
This is when the fun kicks in. Once teams are announced, ask each team to come up with a team name based on what the team shares — either in experience, interests, or fun facts. This helps teammates to get to know each other and identify differences as well as commonalities. An example of this is all members of the team may have a summer vacation planned and may have a shared loved of cats. In this instance, the team may name themselves the “travelling cats”. Admittedly, not the strongest example, though try it out and let us know how what you come up with!
In addition to a team name, we encourage you to create a way of working together. Ask teams to commit to five principles they will commit to while being on a team. Examples of these can be, “We will be on time” or “We will high five each other after every activity.” Once all five commitments are written down, ask each team member to sign the contract to put the social contract in place. Note: the team contract can also be used outside of company events and for any team you put in place within your organization.
According to this article from Wharton, the most important part of creating a team is outlining who are we, what are we going to do and how are we going to do it? — the team name and team social contract is one way to live into this.
Are you ready to create teams that impact employees beyond just your day of event? Do you have other tips? Leave comments below!
The Zog Culture Business supports organizations by increasing morale and collaboration, and enhances the employee experience by creating connections and camaraderie. We offer Field Days and Company events, In-Office Programming, and Private Tournaments. Learn more by visiting our site or email Danny@ZogSports.com to inquire about bringing Zog to your office.
Think about the last time you experienced play — maybe it was a game of beach volleyball on your spring vacation, or a round of trivia at the bar last weekend, or maybe it was as simple as that “Would You Rather” question you posed to your friend on your subway ride.
Now think about the people surrounding you during that moment. Think about the laughs you traded, the high fives you shared, and the stories you now have to tell.
Imagine if you could bring this playfulness to the workplace to connect with your coworkers and be part of a community where people cared about each other and knew each other in a “real friends” type of way. Work, and life, would be a whole lot better, don’t you think?
Use these tips to incorporate play into your company culture to feel connected to your colleagues, part of a community, and so you can play in and outside of the office:
1) Playful meetings. Are there ways you can add play to recurring meetings? Whether it’s an all hands, a weekly 1:1 or a team meeting, think about ice breakers, riddles, or fun rituals you can add to spice them up. For inspiration, LivePerson uses a technique called “connection before content”. The leader of the meeting poses a question at the start of a meeting designed to get people out of their comfort zones.
2) Three questions. At ZogSports, every employee answers the following three questions and sits down the with CEO to share their responses:
1) What’s your dream?
2) What do you want to learn/develop in the next year?
3) What are the top 10 personal things you want to do in your free time?
By allowing space for these conversations in the office, people are free to share their dreams, ambitions, and what they do for fun. Work and life blend, and people are supported in reaching their personal and professional goals.
3) Birthday ritual. Whether we like it or not, birthdays are a constant and happen regardless of what else is happening in the world. See this as an opportunity to celebrate, and set one day per month to acknowledge all the birthdays from the last 30 days. Pro tip: Ask each person celebrating their birthday to choose their favorite birthday treat.
4) Games in office. While perks certainly do not make a great culture, bringing games such as foosball, ping pong or even playing cards gets people up and away from their desks.
It’s not the games that create the playful culture, it’s the way people show up to the games that creates connection and community.
5) Healthy competition. Who doesn’t love setting and reaching a team goal? While this is often a tactic used on sales teams, think about other areas of the business where you can start a challenge and create friendly competition. At ZogSports, we have a gym challenge where employees set gym goals and hold each other accountable to meeting their goals.
6) Moving meetings. Taking walking meetings and/or having standing desks is a great way for people to get up and out of their normal routines. According to a research article published in Harvard Business Review, walking meeting increase creative thinking. Get moving!
7) Music. Music is scientifically proven to change your mood (even sad music can boost your happiness!), so play it in the office when the time is right and you’re looking to shift the energy. You may be surprised how 90’s rock helps people transition from lonely heads down work to fun collaboration.
8) Leaders lead. Ask your leaders to lead by example by being vulnerable, trusting, and smiling. Research shows that smiling is in fact contagious, so encourage your leaders to embody these positive traits of leadership so it spreads throughout the organization.
9) Summer outing. Plan a summer outing to give people the chance to connect out of the office. Baseball games, summer picnics, or happy hours are a great way to bring the fun outside and enable connections, community and play.
10) Start a fun committee. We’ve noticed the companies with greatest “play cultures” have teams dedicated to bringing fun to their office. This may (or may not) be their full time responsibility, though empowering your employees to take the lead on bringing in play allows them feel ownership and greater connection to the play experience.
How do you incorporate play into your company culture?
ZogSports is America’s most popular social sports community, with over 100,000 players forming millions of new connections every year. In 2014, ZogSports realized the need to bring connection, community and play to workplaces, and launched the ZogSports Culture Business.
The ZogSports Culture Business supports organizations by increasing morale and collaboration, and enhances the employee experience by creating connections and camaraderie. We offer Field Days and Company events, In-Office Programming, and Private Tournaments. Learn more at www.ZogSports.com/Corporate-Events.aspx or email Danny@ZogSports.com to inquire about bringing Zog to your company.