How playfulness benefits business – creativity
We live in a fast-paced, changing world. Businesses that are unable to adapt cannot keep up and will not last. The ability to improvise, to evolve and to find new and better ways of working is key to success. Playfulness and creativity go hand-in-hand, so to encourage creativity in your workplace, you need to encourage a sort of playfulness and develop a happy workplace.
Some of the most amazing businesses and inventions have developed from play. Play-doh, for example, was originally a compound designed for cleaning wallpaper designed by Noah McVicker. Noah’s nephew heard his sister-in-law complaining that modelling clay was hard for the children in her nursery to manipulate and sent her some of the wall-paper cleaning putty to play with. Play-doh was born. Google Maps came about because, during a meeting, somebody was fiddling about with satellite mapping technology on their computer and they realised the potential. The telescope came about because some children were playing with lenses. When we fiddle and play about, we are creative and explore possibilities.
It does require patience. In a world where every hour must be accounted for and outcomes assessed, play requires the opposite. Creativity is whimsical. It may not show returns every time, but in the long term new ideas and connections come forth and your business can evolve and develop.
How to make a happy workplace
Look for the joy
Excitement and happiness are both contagious.
As an employee recruiting new workers, consider whether they are going to increase the net happiness in your workplace. A worker with a naturally happy disposition will help create a happy workplace culture.
For yourself as a worker, try to recapture that excitement you felt when you took on your new job, or decided on your career. Talk to your boss about making the workplace a more positive and happy place to be. If you’re in a workplace where creativity and happiness are not valued, then maybe it’s time to rethink your career. (I did!)
The number one reason that people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel appreciated.
It follows, then, that the number one way to increase the happiness and productivity of your workplace is to show your employees that you value them. There are different ways to achieve this:
- make your expectations clear and then trust people to do the job you’ve asked them to, without micro-managing them
- a simple pat on the back and comment on what they’ve done well
- a public acknowledgement – employee of the week or star-worker board
- find out what their goals are and help them to work towards them
- find out more about them as a person – what do they do outside work?
- listen to all suggestions of how to make work better – not just your senior management team
- be flexible about work-life balance. If you don’t allow your loyal worker to go and watch their 5 year old in her first class assembly, they won’t feel quite so happy or loyal. Let them go, they’ll repay you by working doubly hard when they return.
Chat / informal times
Encourage chat. Let your workers get to know one another, encourage them to greet one another, to chat over coffee, to compliment work well done. Provide space for this to happen. Sure, you’ll get one or two workers who start out by taking advantage of this to avoid work and moan about the boss, but as happiness, company loyalty and productivity increase, they will soon step up.
Creativity is key
In team meetings develop a culture where no idea is off the table. This removes the fetters and allows and encourages playful and creative thinking. You may get some daft ideas but you will also get some truly creative gems that with a bit of polish could transform your business.
Outside of work
Workers spend a lot of time together in work and begin to build friendships. Develop these friendships further with some outside work activities.
Work is often seen as a bit of a drudge. You go, you get the job done, you go home. Often our work places are focused on uniformity, efficiency (or the lack of it!) and serious action. Playfulness, however, can make an enormous difference to the whole ethos and productivity of a company. For the employees it can make the difference between a job they love and a job they just turn up at. Playfulness in the workplace is really important.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” Plato
How playfulness benefits business – productivity
It’s true – happy workers are more productive workers. Researchers at Said Business School at the University of Oxford have found conclusive links between happiness and productivity. They found that workers are 13% more productive when they are happier. In addition, a study by the Harvard Business School suggests that disengaged (unhappy) workers are involved in 37% more absenteeism, 49% more accidents and 60% more errors and defects. It sounds like a happy workplace could really affect the bottom line of your business!
Workers who enjoy their job:
- put more energy into their work and work with more passion;
- care about the business they work for and find out more about the aims of the company;
- are better at their jobs
- are more likely to be loyal and stay with the company (saving time and money eaten up by high staff turnover)
- are healthier (work-related mental disorders cost a lot in paid sick days).
- are more supportive of the company and other employees
What do we mean by a playful business?
Playfulness isn’t necessarily about putting bean bags and lego in the corner, but it could be about “gamifying” mundane work, it could be about encouraging and developing playful imaginative development sessions for all workers to allow and encourage imagination and inspiration.
“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” Roald Dahl
Play is not the opposite of work – that’s leisure. Play is part of work. Not having play in your workplace makes your business less flexible, less innovative, less able to develop or enhance inspiration and passion. A happy workplace makes for a productive, creative business.