Play at Work? Why Companies from Google to IBM Place a Premium on Fun

Work is work.  play is play, and never the twain shall meet.  This “strictly business” ideology has pretty much dominated the professional landscape for as long as most of us can remember.

But how well is it working?  With employee engagement rates consistently hovering around the 30% mark, clearly not that well.   Yet new research designed to address this dismal statistic has uncovered some interesting findings.  According to studies by Harvard-trained researchers Lindsay McGregor and Neel Doshi, play is actually something our work lives could use a lot more of.

Play is both a primary motivator and a proven methodology for reaching peak performance in the workplace.  Before you dismiss this notion as time-consuming, distracting or otherwise altogether unreasonable, consider the benefits.

Experts have identified game-based competition and cooperation as among the most effective means of fostering team building.   Friendly competition increases motivation.  Team cooperation enables employees to connect to their organizations socially, as well as professionally, deepening that sense of belonging associated with greater engagement as work.

In today’s competitive marketplace, optimizing employee engagement levels is simply good business, and increasingly, a play-based culture is a smart way to do it.

Take Google for example, the company that serves as the poster child for a fun place to work.  From dorky nick-names (new employees are “Nooglers”) to crazy pranks, even body paint has found a place here (you’ll just have to Google it). Google is known for culture, so this makes perfect sense.

And since innovation begets imitation, especially when it leads to measurable outcomes, even companies like Xerox and IBM are successfully using gamification to reinforce employee training programs.

At Xerox, trainees go on quests, alone or in groups, and learn to use their new skills in the real work environment. Leader boards track their progress and keep the training fun.  At IBM, business process management is learned through gamifcation.  The premise is  to acclimate players through simulated interaction with a fictional company in order to help them understand the connection between IT and business processes.

Play-based programs directly and positively affect employee engagement levels, which is turn improve satisfaction, performance and the company’s bottom line.

To be clear, introducing any new focus to your workplace, regardless of how positive it is, can be challenging.  Changing a culture, workplace or otherwise, can be a slow and arduous process.

Yet since experts agree that a play-based culture contributes powerfully to everything from happiness to productivity, it’s a practice worth exploring.


Are you challenged with motivating employees to adopt best-practices, or to meet goals or benchmarks because your training programs don’t result in lasting change or improvement?

Try the solutions-oriented approach that has continuously proven successful in helping people reach performance goals by creating the right framework and programs to support lasting change.

Contact me today at for a free 30-minute consultation today!

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