Google has bowling alleys. LinkedIn has foosball tables. Zynga has arcade games. Playing at work has become so commonplace that it’s starting to seem a bit clichéd. But as played out (excuse the pun) as this trend may be, it hasn’t stopped an increasing number of companies from encouraging employees to enjoy more childlike diversions at work.
The reason? Productivity.
It isn’t necessarily the activity itself that makes people more productive. It’s the way that playing ping-pong, foosball, arcade games and other juvenile diversions can make people feel younger.
When someone’s age becomes more subjective and not tied to a number, that employee becomes 5 to 6 percent more productive in the workplace. He or she taps into a newfound desire for knowledge and skills, thereby becoming a more goal-oriented person.
People with a lower subjective age also seek more growth and promotion opportunities than those who “feel” their age. They start developing long-term thinking, both personally and professionally, that incentivizes the success of both their objectives and their employers’.
So how do you lower the subjective age of employees and improve their productivity in the process?
1. Organize play.
Sometimes, employees just need a push to lighten up in the workplace, and “organized play” is a great way to do it. Pull together a company retreat outside the office where your staff can build closer personal connections.
Explore different types of retreats, such as educational, artistic or outdoorsy excursions. You encourage growth in new directions when you expose employees to experiences outside the office environment.
2. Host hackathons.
Not all companies are like Google, with the resources to offer employees time to work on their own projects. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do something similar or get creative.
Hackathons allow more entrepreneurial employees to explore other interests at work. Try holding one every few months to facilitate outside-the-box thinking. You never know how innovative staff can be until they’re given the opportunity.
3. Maintain connections.
Old habits die hard, and many companies will fall back into a business-as-usual mentality after a company event. Look for ways to support those staff connections after “play” is over.
We do a monthly book club not only to stay connected, but to also expand our understanding of different fields. Your company could offer lunches to help employees maintain bonds -- and improve their productivity in the process by staying in the office.
4. Cultivate inclusiveness.
Startups are notoriously young, both amongst staff members and founding partners. With time, however, their demographic makeups start to balance out. Company events need to reflect that.
Before hosting another Halloween keg party, take stock of the ages and interests of your entire workforce. Perhaps a day of hiking or a company barbecue is a better option. Just make sure you’re mindful and don't isolate anyone on your team.
5. Set goals collectively.
Setting and monitoring goals keeps employees motivated, if they’re deeply involved in the process. Rather than allow management to set annual goals and objectives, make it a collective decision.
Our process of goal setting is both collective and transparent to the staff. This allows each team member to own his or her progression and hold others accountable for their successes and failures.
As long as companies are age-inclusive and stereotype-free, those with dynamic environments will reap the benefits of employees’ subjective age. Their employees will remain flexible and willing to acquire new knowledge and skill sets that help everyone accomplish more than they imagined.