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Phoenix Forward

5 ways to bring play into the workplace

You know the saying: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

The same is true for many employees who are glued to their desks for eight hours a day. Studies show that just 10 minutes of play can have a positive impact on workplace performance, says Jim Lipot, instructor in the MBA program for the University of Phoenix Southern California Campus.

“If people are enjoying what they do, the quality of their work will improve, and their overall attitude will improve,” says Lipot, who is also a consultant.

Here are some suggestions for how to get the ball rolling in your office, whether you’re the boss or an employee encouraging change:

Get up and move!

Get up and move.

“Taking a short break and doing something physical can make a huge difference,” Lipot says. “How often depends on the type of work and how stressful it is.”

He recommends companies bring in foosball tables or indoor NERF® basketball hoops, and stick them in a game room where employees can take breaks and compete in tournaments.

Organize "Freaky Friday" events.

Organize “Freaky Friday” events.

Lipot suggests that managers institute “mirror days,” where staff members swap jobs.

“While many companies cross-train — so that employees can learn what other departments do — they don’t necessarily do anything with the information they learn,” he says.

“After listening to the sales department complain about customer service and vice versa, it was really beneficial, as well as fun, for people to step to the other side of the looking glass,” says Lipot, who has done this before.

Turn routine work into a game.

Turn routine work into a game.

If you’re managing a staff whose tasks include tedious routines, like data entry, consider introducing fun daily competitions, Lipot suggests, such as finding who can input the most in an hour or who can find the customer with the farthest ZIP code.

“People will no longer think of their work as drudgery when they are trying to win a race and are having fun in the process.”

Take stress out on the boss.

Take out stress on the boss.

Managers can help cultivate a more playful atmosphere by finding a creative way to put themselves into the game.

As a manager of a stressful department handling irate customers, Lipot tacked an enormous poster of his face, with concentric rings forming a bull’s eye, on the wall and supplied staffers with foam ball shooters and rubber-band guns.

“I recognized that these people needed tension relief,” Lipot says, “and as the boss, I was the perfect target.”

Plan your fun experiences together.

Plan your fun experiences together.

Rather than brainstorming how to improve the business, Lipot suggests scheduling quarterly “fun-storming” sessions — where employees offer ways to make tasks and procedures more fun.

Lipot has facilitated sessions like these that produced creative results, from posting funny expressions on the wall to scheduling a day each week for a different employee to play music.

“Just remind people not to bring in any music laced with profanity,” Lipot suggests. “You don’t want to offend anyone while you’re having fun.”

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