The proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” might have been coined in the 15th Century, but it has perhaps even more relevance today. The private medical insurer Vitality conducted a survey studying employee absenteeism during 2019 (pre-pandemic). The study revealed that “British businesses lost an average of 38 working days per employee to physical and mental health-related absence and presenteeism in 2019 – added to the start of this year, that makes today, February 21st, the UK’s ‘first productive day.” It’s estimated that this cost the UK economy a staggering £91.9billion. Around three-quarters of that figure was attributed to factors such as unhealthy lifestyle choices and, more specifically, mental health problems.
It was also revealed that just under half of those surveyed admitted to showing up for work but being unable to perform their best, due to the same reasons: poor mental health and certain lifestyle choices. The link between these two factors was underpinned, as it was found that those with poorer mental health tended to make poorer lifestyle choices such as smoking, binge drinking, and choosing unhealthy food. Anxiety, stress, and depression alone cost the country’s economy an estimated £30billion.
However, the study also revealed that around 75% of employees who engage in wellbeing and mental health initiatives reported a positive change in their general health, although less than 30% involved themselves in such programs. While these might only be the results of one study, there is further evidence to support the importance of fun in the workplace.
At Avansas, we’re firm believers that, as Mary Poppins said, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” Let’s look at how you might be able to add a spoonful of sugar to the working day by upping the fun factor in your business.
The importance of fun
The founder of Ogilvy and Mather, David M Ogilvy, said that, “When people aren’t having any fun, they seldom produce good work.” An experiment conducted by the Social Market Foundation at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy found a direct link between fun and productivity.
700 participants were subjected to ‘happiness’ shocks in the form of 10-minute clips of a well-known comedian or unexpected refreshments. After each ‘shock’ the levels of productivity were measured against those of a control group, who hadn’t received any refreshments or seen any of the clips. Those who had been exposed to the shocks saw an average increase in productivity of an average of 12% and, in many cases, peaking at around 20%.
Similarly, ongoing research by the associate dean of the Loma Linda School of Allied Health Professions, Dr Lee S. Berk, has uncovered some of the life-affirming benefits of laughter. Most of us are aware of the phrase ‘laughter is the best medicine,’ but Berk supports that notion with scientific evidence. Concerning mental health, he says that, “Laughter triggers the production of key neurochemicals like dopamine, which produce calming, anti-anxiety benefits as well as providing us pleasure and reward. It also increases EEG gamma wave frequency in the brain, which synchronizes brain neurons to help improve your memory and cognitive processing.”
With regard to the effects of laughter on productivity, these EEG gamma waves are “responsible for addressing information processing, improved memory and recall, stress reduction. We now know in neuroscience that gamma frequency enhances the brain’s cognitive levels.” In short, Berks’ findings back up the research conducted by Vitality and Warwick University. So if you want to increase your employees’ productivity, then improving their mental health, through fun and laughter, is the best way to go.
Play for productivity
You might be concerned that trying to improve the fun aspect of your office might have to involve buying a ton of toys, games, and gadgets for your workers to get to grips with. While ‘kidulthooding’ is gaining traction as a concept, your workspace might not be the right environment or might not be able to accommodate a plethora of playthings. Instead, you can kickstart a mental health drive by using some of the equipment you’ve already got. Let’s have a look at some suggestions, to get the ball rolling.
- Whiteboard games. Most offices have a whiteboard and if yours doesn’t, check out our range of whiteboards, accessories, and markers. These wipeable boards can be used for a variety of games, from basic Noughts and Crosses and Hangman to quizzes and even Chess. Certain board games translate well onto the whiteboard, such as Pictionary, Diplomacy, and Codenames. If you’ve any board-game buffs in your company, see if they’ve got any copies.
- Flipchart games. ‘Guess that Baby’ is an oldie, but a goodie. Ask all your employees to bring in a photograph of themselves as a baby. While no one’s around, fix them to your flipchart and, on a break, get everyone together to guess which of their colleagues is which. This tends to work best as an ice-breaker with new employees or if your workers do know each other, a great way for them to get to find out a little more about each other. Divide the group into teams and watch the guesses fly!
- Who am I? This might be an old-school, dinner-party favourite, but it has its place in the office as a team-building game that’s sure to raise some giggles. Sit your group in a circle and give each participant a post-it note and a pen (you’ll find plenty of these on our website). Without letting anyone else see what they’re writing, get them to jot down the name of a famous person, alive or dead. Then, ask them to stick their chosen person’s name to the forehead of the person on their right, so that everyone but the wearer can see what’s written on it. By this point, everyone should be wearing a post-it note. Choose someone to start. They can then ask the rest of the group questions, which can only be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Questions might be something like “Am I alive?” or “Am I a singer?” For every ‘yes,’ the questioner receives, they get to ask another question. If they’re answered with a ‘no,’ it becomes the turn of the person on their right. The game continues until everyone has worked out who they are.
The importance of fun in the workplace cannot be underestimated. Not only can it increase productivity, but it can lessen absences, and help your employees look forward to a day in the office. While at Avansas we don’t stock toys or modelling clay, we do stock a range of office supplies that with a little imagination, can be used to promote laughter and support your employees’ mental health.