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?