How to Play Games at Work Productively

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One of the big challenges facing businesses today is maintaining a keenly motivated workforce that is raring to achieve bigger and better targets every day. Companies resort to a variety of measures to keep morale up and their teams motivated. These include flexible work hours, encouraging good work-life balance, offering perks like free meals, gym memberships, laundry services and more. A relatively new approach that seems to really work is making work play. Hello, gamification.

The American gaming industry is worth $22.4 billion annually with 80 percent of households owning at least one gaming device. American gamers spend an average of 40 hours a week playing games – that’s the same amount of time they spend at a full-time job every week!

American companies are embracing gaming in droves to up their employee engagement levels. Gamification takes the concept of game play and applies it to work situations, making work more enjoyable, competitive and attractive to workers.

The science behind gamification.

There’s science to back up this move towards gaming. Research by the National Training Laboratories shows that people retain 75 percent of new knowledge acquired while playing games. Not only does gaming help learn things better, it also helps in retaining information for the long term. A study by Indiana University showed that game-based learners retained 45 percent of knowledge six weeks after training, compared to just 4 percent of knowledge retained by non-game based learners.

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the National Institute for Play says “Play can also lower your stress levels, boost your optimism, and increase your motivation to move up in a company and improve concentration and perseverance. There’s some evidence from animal studies that engaging in play opens up new neural connections in the brain, leading to greater creativity.”

Take Irie Islands Defense, for instance. This iOS game (full disclosure: I’m addicted to it!) is not just another time-killer. In an effort to defend an island paradise from invaders, players need to demonstrate superb cognitive abilities, canny strategy, leadership skills and nimble-footedness -- all skills that go into making an intelligent, motivated employee.

Related: 6 Techniques to Effectively Gamify a Mobile App

Making the mundane fun.

Lawley Insurance, an insurance and risk management company based in Buffalo, New York, was having trouble getting its sales team to use its Salesforce CRM system. Accurate data entry and predicting sales closes precisely were a problem as the stakeholders couldn’t be bothered with boring old data entry into the CRM system, rendering an expensive and powerful tool completely toothless. To turn the situation around, the company decided to gamify the data entry process. They asked sales teams to use LevelEleven, a native SalesForce app to capture sales numbers, customer data and forecasts quickly and painlessly.

Every sales team member was incentivized to clean up the CRM pipeline and rewards were set for each level of completion.

The results were spectacular. In just two weeks, the sales team at Lawley Insurance generated more activity and engagement on their CRM than they had managed in the previous 7.5 months put together.

Related: Why You Should Supercharge Your Workplace With Gamification

Cutting employee health care costs.

Blue Shield of California, a not-for-profit health care plan provider, decided to use gamification to help its employees develop healthier lifestyles, thus cutting the employee health care costs for the company.

To accomplish this, Blue Shield developed a series of mobile gaming apps that not only encouraged them to exercise more and eat healthy, but also tapped into social media to keep the users engaged. Blue Shield’s efforts yielded some strong results.

  • 80 percent of employees participated in the program.
  • There was a 50 percent drop in smoking.
  • There was a 66 percent drop in hypertension.

Blue Shield’s health care costs have slowed down sharply. Their annual increase in health care costs has dropped from double digit to single digit growth.

How to take it forward.

Leading companies have successfully integrated games and gamification into their workplace lifestyles. From ping-pong tables to in-house gyms to video gaming consoles to even playing fantasy league team sports within the organization have contributed to vibrant work cultures.

Can’t afford an in-house gym or a video gaming arcade? Never mind. Encourage employees to play games right on their own smartphones where they can pit their wits against each other and not feel guilty about "wasting time." Just remind them to use an app like SafeEyes to prevent eye strain and let them game on to their hearts’ content.

Who knows all that time spent gaming might just be the key to jump starting your organization’s hidden turbine for creativity and teamwork!

Related: How Three Businesses Scored Big with Gamification