There’s a link between employee happiness and productivity that has lead companies such as Google to foster the perfect workplace in order to get the best from their employees.
With companies offering free food, bowling alleys, pool tables and a whole bunch more exciting stuff within the workplace, there’s been a lot said about the modern approach to getting stuff done, and the takeaway never seems to involve working longer hours.
On the back of the once leftfield stance of work + play = productivity that many leading companies advocate, we’re separating action from distraction to explore the impact of playing games on work productivity.
Working and concentration
At first, the idea of taking a break from work sounds counterproductive; surely the best way to get more done is to work for longer? Well, research shows that regular breaks during long tasks can lead to a more consistent overall performance, and working for long periods of time without a break results in a steady decline in productivity. It’s important to understand that your brain can’t sustain the level of constant concentration we often wish it could, and we can work faster and concentrate better by taking regular breaks, which games allow us to do without having to roam too far from our desk.
Refreshing your brain with games
Regular breaks mean we can work better for longer because we’re giving our brain a time out from the task at hand. The difference between taking a break by checking social media and playing a game is that games force us to fully engage with what we’re doing, completely taking our mind off work for a period of time. Not thinking about work–and the deadlines, meetings and general chaos that comes with it–can not only refresh your brain but also alleviate stress, providing a highly engaging and interactive distraction.
Timing concentration breaks
The idea of taking regular work intervals is all well and good, but it’s easy to get distracted during a break and begin replying to emails or start on other jobs. Before you know it, you’ve lost an hour and aren’t any further forward. A Kansas State University study from 2014 shows that staff who spent an average of 22 minutes a day playing games, such as the ever-popular Candy Crush, noted being happier than their peers. The beauty of app-based games, in particular, is that one game lasts two or three minutes, meaning we can take a short, sharp rest with an obvious end before cracking on with the task in hand once more. The games themselves dictate the length of your break, ensuring you don’t get carried away and hamper productivity.
Improving our memory by playing games at work
This infographic shows that Millennials have a worse memory than those over 55, unable to remember things such as phone numbers due to “digital amnesia” caused by a reliance on smartphones and the internet. Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, outlines that we can improve our brains and memory with gameplay, which, in turn, can help us to be more effective at work. “Any regular activity helps the brain. Repetition is how the brain builds up the pathways for ensuring we can do things quickly and easily. So any mental activity that helps build up these pathways will help. One of the things I tell my students is that repetitive mental tasks really help build up automation in our brain.”
So how can we ensure we aren’t allowing our brains to go to mush due to an overindulgence in all things digital? Some suggestions include games such as the Tray Game (in which you try to remember as many items as possible in a minute), Sudoku and–of course–Bingo, which offers a unique mix of memorising patterns, problem-solving, time pressure and socialising that’s generally ace for your brain. Full house!
The future of games at work
Millennials expect fun, such as games, to be integrated into the workplace more than any other demographic. With Millennials set to make up 75% of the workplace by 2025, it’s likely we’ll see games and other fun activities becoming an accepted norm in traditional offices, and not just in funky start-ups, in the not-so-distant future.
As an entrepreneur, it’s important to remember that working for too long without breaks will have a negative effect. With so much to do, it might feel a little crazy to down tools, but taking the “little and often” approach and integrating game breaks into your schedule can have a profound effect on your mood, productivity and stress levels.