If you still think the best way to move your business forward is to be chained to your desk or smartphone, it's time to loosen up. Innovative companies like Google have proven that you can let yourself and your employees have a good time at work and still be productive.
Ryan Tate, author of The 20% Doctrine: How Tinkering, Goofing Off and Breaking the Rules at Work Drive Success in Business (Harper Collins, 2012) and Matt Weinstein, author of Managing to Have Fun: How Fun at Work Can Motivate Your Employees, Inspire Your Coworkers and Boost Your Bottom Line (Simon & Schuster, 1997) have found that injecting fun into your office can result in not only a more innovative environment, but a more productive one.
Here are their tips for how incorporate more play your workday:
1. Experiment with different projects. "Anything that gets people out of their usual headspace and routine can help," says Tate, who studied the application of the 20 percent doctrine. Pioneered by Google, the 20 percent doctrine allows employees to devote a fifth of their work time to pursue personal interest projects. The freedom to experiment resulted in the creation of several successful programs including AdSense and Gmail.
You might think that encouraging your employees to goof off would mean they'll put in less hours, but Tate found the opposite to be true in his research. "There's an internal joke at Google that 20 percent time is really 120 percent time," says Tate, who found companies who gave workers a little freedom had a more dedicated workforce. "If you can get someone personally invested in your business then they're going to be powered by their intrinsic motivation."
The 20 percent doctrine has since been adopted by many companies including Flikr and The Huffington Post and is proof that giving the mind permission to break from the usual routine can fuel ingenuity and result in profitable business solutions.
2. Recharge your brain. Taking a mental break makes it possible to approach tasks with a refreshed attitude. If you've ever experienced the "thinking-in-the-shower" phenomenon, you know that a distraction often opens the mental space for new ideas to appear to you. "You take your mind off something, you let it get massaged in a different direction, then you come back to it and boom -- the solution is there for you," says Weinstein, who gives workshops to managers on how to inject fun into the workplace.
Weinstein gives the example of an editor-in-chief who, after a long day of working on a deadline, gathered his staff and challenged them to a break-dance contest in the hallway. After a few laughs, they went back to work and met the deadline. "Those kind of spontaneous things where everyone gets a chance to regenerate are extremely important," says Weinstein.
3. Encourage employees to have fun."Fun is a language everyone speaks," says Weinstein. Injecting fun into your business model encourages communication and creates a sense of belonging. "What successful managers are finding now is that if people feel a sense of connection to the company, they'll be more productive," says Weinstein.
You don't need to have a million dollar game room to promote a fun workplace. Posting baby pictures or High School yearbook photos on the bulletin board and having employees guess who's who or hosting a bring your dog to work day are affordable ways to encourage employees to let loose.