Renovating your workspace to incorporate play can result in mentally and physically healthier employees, retain them for longer, and boost productivity and engagement. However, it isn’t just a one-size-fits-all job.
Working hard is hardly working
Talk to anyone who’s worked overtime every day of the week, and they’ll probably tell you that they’re severely overworked and stressed out.
“If you think about people’s working lives, you know, we spend a third of our lives at work,” Angela Ferguson, Futurespace’s managing director, tells My Business.
“We’re there from early in the morning to quite often late at night ... more than 65 per cent of Australians spend more than 40 hours a week at work, and then, of those 65 per cent, more than a third of those are 50 hours a week at work.
“We do have a really long working week.”
As My Business has reported in the past, having a flexible approach in the workplace is important for the mental health of employees, so being presented with seemingly endless days of work does not do wonders for wellbeing.
Work hard, play hard
To solve this issue of working long hours, and the resulting stress, Angela suggests incorporating an element of play into the workplace.
“The whole purpose behind designing workspaces that are about people is about providing people a place that’s going to, keep people engaged and happy in what they’re doing, and give them the tools they need to be able to do the job properly,” she says.
Providing a happy workspace results in productive and engaged employees, she adds.
“If they’re less stressed, they’ve got a much more positive outlook on things [and] they’re more engaged in what they’re doing.
“If people are engaged, and they’re involved ... [and] in love with what they’re doing, then everything comes naturally from that.”
“Every business is different, and the real secret to it is designing something that’s appropriate for you and your business and your business’ personality.”
Creating a fun workspace isn’t just a solution for bigger businesses; small businesses can do it too, and easily, suggests Angela.
“Smaller [businesses] have a lot more scope, because they don’t have a lot of systems and processes and boxes to tick, and really, you can buy a table tennis table on eBay and put that in a tucked-away corner of the office, [for example],” she says.
“That’s a great way to promote not only physical activity, because it can get quite physical, but it’s a great way to promote healthy competition and team-building and all sorts of things.
“It could be that you buy a retro arcade game on eBay as well, or just figure out what’s appropriate for your business, and how you can just have a little area or corner where people can escape from what they’re doing most of the day.”
Each business needs a tailored fit for fun
However, it’s not just a simple case of copying the latest business that has incorporated play into its workplace successfully.
Futurespace provides a consultancy service, designing workspaces with play elements, and finds a lot of its clients want to emulate Google, which is known for having a unique workspace.
“People know that Google does this thing, and we have a lot of clients that say ‘We want to be like Google’, and we always talk to them about who they are,” she says.
“It’s like, ‘You’re actually not Google; you’re you, and what is the most appropriate thing for you?’
“We’re working with a really big accounting practice at the moment, and they have got part of a massive floor dedicated to this idea of play, but it’s play in the form of things like LEGO … and life-sized chess sets … [to promote] mental play, because that’s appropriate for who they are and their business.”
Angela adds that the process is nothing like how reality TV renovation shows portray it.
“A lot of the renovation shows really undermine the processes that we go through,” she says.
“Clients think that they can just make changes ... like you see on those shows on TV, but that’s not really how they work, it’s actually a really structured process that we go through … because it’s commercial construction.”
What businesses can learn from Sir Roger Bannister
By Adam Zuchetti
‘We had lost our way culturally’
By Adam Zuchetti
Ask the Experts: How can employers protect their own mental health?
By Adam Zuchetti