In previous generations, the idea of employment was to go into the business, work your shift with only a short meal break, and then go home for any recreational activities you enjoy. Today’s most successful businesses have broken away from that model and some have even begun to encourage employees to incorporate “time-wasting” activities into their day.
Shortly after I graduated from University, I was interviewing for a job at a company that ranked number 69 on the Fortune 500. I was completely baffled when I walked into the office for my interview with the head of human resources and found her playing pachinko in her office.
Over the course of my interview I was introduced to several other members of the company’s management team, and all of them had one game or another in their offices. The company required all employees to have one non-computerized game available to play in each office, and the employees were encouraged to take a little time out of each day to play their game and the games other employees had. This was used as a method to give employees a break from staring at a computer monitor all day and encourage fun interaction between the team members throughout the workday.
Some companies, like Google, provide physical fitness centers, massages, and even outdoor hammocks for their employees to use for relaxation and a break from the workday. Most commonly, however, employers that are looking to boost employee morale with a little bit of “goof-off” time, allow their team members to have some leeway in using the Internet and social media throughout the day. These sorts of distractions – once see as wasteful, have been shown to improve productivity.
This is perplexing to many managers and entrepreneurs who see recreational activities at work as a waste of time, and truly they can be if not utilized properly. However, researchers at the University of Melbourne confirmed that on average, employees who use the Internet for personal reasons during work ours are nine percent more productive than those who don’t.
James Levine of the Mayo Clinic suggests that work is best-done when concentrated into 15-minute periods, divided by breaks, pointing out that, “the thought process is not designed to be continuous.” He believes that efficient, productive work is far more valuable than long hours of wasted or partially-productive time.
Many companies have found that facilitating social interaction amongst employees is better than team-building exercises at creating strong work relationships for productive work. Allowing employees some leeway in performing their duties gives them a stronger sense of loyalty to the company and actually helps keep team members on-task.
When your employees are able to engage with their family or friends periodically throughout the day on Facebook or through email, they are less prone to distraction over personal matters. An employee who can keep in touch with his or her spouse and kids is much less likely to miss them or worry about them during work hours, and can give the work his or her full attention.
The Internet also allows for real-time interactions to become asynchronous ones. Taking a personal phone call or having someone pop into the office to discuss work that is unrelated to the job someone is working on can interrupt concentration and set back the thought process required for effective job performance, while online communication through social media or email doesn’t demand immediate or full attention. This makes it possible for employees to choose when to take breaks from their work, rather than having it interrupted at inconvenient times.
When employees have the freedom to relax, to take a walk around the building, to run an errand or have a nice lunch out, they are more satisfied with their employer and more productive and creative in their jobs. When someone is working full-steam all day every day, he or she will eventually experience the law of diminishing returns. Even doing enjoyable work that the employee loves to do, the brain has its limits and will simply shut down. When given short breaks from the work, employees come back energized and ready for more.
What are you doing within your organization to foster and spur creativity and productivity? Do you need help identifying strengths and weaknesses in this area and others? If so, consider contacting Alliance Group International today. We would enjoy the opportunity to discuss your company and how we may be able to help you become more productive and bring about more profitability.