Workplace wellbeing is a difficult target to reach, but Laine & Rinne have summarised key areas which need to be considered by those brave enough to try. The list below shows how play has the potential to help with each of these.
1 – Health
While being in good health is a combination of lifestyle and luck, both promoting good health and recovery from illness can be supported by play activities. Research has highlighted how play can help mentally prepare us for coping with pain and illness, supporting the development of resilience and even enhancing recovery times! The old favourite that laughing is great medicine also holds true, so five minutes of fun as a regular habit could help to decrease absence due to sickness. Try out quick and silly party games like Asmodee’s Dobble or Ridley’s Avocado Smash!
2 – Stress, role conflict and the meaning of work
We’ve all had days where we feel torn in two, wearing too many hats or overwhelmed in trying to be the person everyone needs us to be. Play can help develop core strategies to protect against this, including reframing conflicting goals and meanings. Reframing is a hugely transformative technique that requires acknowledging the location of the conflict as part of who we think we are or want to be. That conflict can then be explored playfully and productively in conjunction with an awareness of our goals and identity. Exploring conflict and stress playfully as a productive exercise can highlight different ways of thinking about roles and our temporary or long term commitments to them.
Play-based techniques can also help reorient employees to what they find meaningful in their work through a focus on their core motivations. After all, we rarely need motivation to have fun! However, this type of intervention usually requires the use of applied play toolkits such as LEGO Serious Play, or facilitation using tools such as conversation cubes.
3 – Personality & Social Relations
While play wont change your personality, it can help you get a better understanding of others. Developing good relations can rely on knowing the different personalities within your team. When we play games we have opportunities for catharsis, a release of tension or built-up emotions. It doesn’t have to be anything as aggressive as beating the boss at paintball, either! Engaging in team games can develop trust and support bonding through shared experiences of success or failure. Some workplaces might be more suited to regular outdoor sports, but any type of social game from charades to Secret Hitler or Pandemic can engage groups in a fulfilling collaborative or competitive social experience.
4 – Uncertainty & change
Change and uncertainty can often be frightening. They threaten our plans for the future and push us outside of our usual practice. Adopting a playful attitude, however, can help build resilience in the face of change. When we play, we remain prepared to change our game without excessive fear of the consequences and maintain a flexible attitude. Building a culture of such flexibility by encouraging playfulness in the workplace can help organisations and individuals face uncertain futures with greater confidence. Helpfully, the genuine promotion of any type of play activity will do this, provided leaders genuinely support creativity and play as a beneficial mechanism!