Uninspired at Work? Then Introduce Creative Play!

Most of us come to work wearing our most grown-up personas possible. We put on our pressed shirts and stiffest shoes, our serious faces and we’re heads down focusing on time, dates, deliverables, budgets, and all those other “officially adult” tasks in our day.

But what if we introduced some childlike play, some innocent fun, some unrestrained creativity? It would be a disaster, you say? Au contraire ma chère abeille ouvrière… many successful companies are thriving with playful environments, cultures and processes. And you can cultivate conditions ripe for discovery, innovation, and collaboration simply by adopting playful and creative approaches in your leadership.

“It’s no secret that the organizations who successfully engage and use the creative abilities of their employees know that creativity can’t be commanded; it doesn’t just flow at will. It must be stimulated,” says author Soulaima Gourani in Forbes.

Photo by Alice Dietrich on Unsplash

Tech companies like Google inspired innovation by introducing slides, treehouse-like cubbyholes, swings, and foosball tables into their offices. According to this New York Times article from 2013, “Google lets many of its hundreds of software engineers, the core of its intellectual capital, design their own desks or workstations out of what resemble oversize Tinker Toys … Employees express themselves by scribbling on walls.”

Other companies such as Lego, GoDaddy, Airbnb, Adobe, and Facebook incorporate everything from skate ramps and DJ stations to walls lined with blackboards and hammocks, all accoutrements to encourage employees to go into their workdays just as a child at play would — full of curiosity, eagerness, energy and happiness.

According to this article from the Association for Psychological Science, “play at work is linked with less fatigue, boredom, stress, and burnout in individual workers. Play is also positively associated with job satisfaction, sense of competence, and creativity. Studies show that when a participant receives a task that is presented playfully, they are more involved and spend more time on the task.”

This has been proven by other research, including this study out of Brigham Young University that said teams who played a video game together prior to performing a subsequent task were 20% more productive than teams who did a traditional team building.

Understandably, many leaders can’t redecorate their offices to resemble a playground or install an Xbox in the conference room (especially since most employees aren’t even at the office) — but leaders can introduce opportunities for play and creative expression in a variety of ways, even when the entire office is working from home.

These tips from Lifehack offer great suggestions that can help break down a stuffy atmosphere and get the creative juices flowing in the office:

  • Organized fun: Designated breaks and organized tournaments… will encourage people to get involved, and to feel safe enough to play.
  • Make meetings fun. Introducing mind maps and brainstorming can encourage right-brain activity.

Fast Company recently recommended these virtual team builders that can help employees connect with their creative and playful sides from home:

  1. Trivia by email: Games like Water Cooler Trivia are accessible by email or Slack, meaning it’s possible to play with coworkers and can adapt questions to company needs.
  2. Tailor-made team building: You can hire a company like Let’s Roam, which has launched in-home scavenger hunts, where players search for items within their own homes. The company is also offering trivia, charades, and a Pictionary-style drawing game, with different options available to corporate or social groups based on what they’re looking to accomplish. The Go Game offers browser-based video team-building game sessions with a live host for trivia, and karaoke.
  3. Icebreakers: easy to do virtually. Brightful Meeting Games provides free icebreaker-style games that can be used during calls, videoconferences, or Slack sessions. The company offers a two-truths-and-a-lie style icebreaker, a would-you-rather game, and a secret word guessing game. It just rolled out a set of card games including hearts and rummy. Exactly how companies or social groups use the games is ultimately up to them.
  4. Online Events: The Offsite Company, which manages corporate retreats, has lip-sync karaoke, where participants break into teams that individually lip-sync to the lyrics of popular songs.

Creative play can reinspire fatigued and disillusioned workers — and leaders like yourself. So try to designate some “play time” for your teams, with you at the helm, and watch how you see genuine smiles on people’s faces, how they bond with each other and with you, and how they give back with increased productivity, innovation and engagement.

Need help connecting with your creative side? An executive coach not only helps leaders uncover and quiet their fears, but also helps to reignite the passions brewing inside, giving your creative energy an opportunity to emerge. Let’s work together and bring out the creativity, spontaneity, and joy through your leadership and within your team.

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