Play For Team-Building

In a Gallup poll on employee engagement, 51% of American workers said that they are not engaged with their jobs, plus another 17% said that they are actively disengaged. That leaves only one in three working Americans who are engaged in their jobs while two out of three employees are dissatisfied with their work experience. (1)

What makes a good workplace where people are actively engaged? One of the largest contributors to employee satisfaction (or lack thereof) is the interpersonal interactions of teams.

Teamwork is encouraged in most workplaces because groups tend to be innovative and satisfying, creating results that are better and more profitable. This can be as small as a team of two to as large as a team of hundreds.

We’ve all had terrible team experiences and amazing ones. Think back to that school project where everyone sucked and you were the only one who did any work, or that time where your team coalesced together to meet a tight deadline and shined with a great presentation. Let’s break down what makes good teams and what makes bad teams:

Psychological SAFETY

In a landmark 5 year, 180 team study, Google analyzed team dynamics (2). They tested whether the best teams needed to be friends outside of work, whether personality types, skills or backgrounds are important, whether managers needed to be strong or weak. And they found none of that mattered. In fact, you might have two groups with almost all the same people and have two different levels of effectiveness.

For instance, group 1 might have members A B C D E F and group 2 might have A C D E F G. Group 1 might be a highly effective group while group 2 flounders.

SO what differentiated the good team from the bad team? The typically unwritten rules of how people behaved in the teams, the group norms. This basically distills down to how team-members treated each other. What mattered was that great teams had psychological safety while terrible teams did not. What mattered was not putting on a “work face”, but being true authentic selves

And what brings everyone out of their shells and helps them take off their “work faces” better than anything is play.

How play contributes to teambuilding

Play opens up the possibilities for creativity and exploration

Play creates an environment where it’s ok to fail, so it’s ok to try new things and put yourselves out there

Play encourages communication

Play helps you learn how coworkers think and react to different stressors

Play boosts productivity and employee engagement (3)

Play decreases stress, absenteeism, and even health care costs (4)

Play allows us to put our shields down and be ourselves, rather than our work-personas

Strategic play encourages people to solve problems together, each contributing their expertise

How you play depends on the time that you have, the personalities that you have, the current group dynamics (and what you want to change), and your budget. It could be as simple as incorporating a silly ice-breaker into team meetings to as complicated as a weekend long company-wide retreat coordinated by a professional event production team.

If you’re interested in setting up a half day to full day teambuilding event that incorporates play as well as social good, we at Gr8er Good Games can help. Get in touch with Shuai via email ( or cell (954-562-8577).

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