Can Scheduled Playtime Boost Productivity?

One of the greatest benefits of being self-employed is you don’t have to hide your workday playtime breaks. You can break up an hour of your time on Facebook or browsing online gossip sites and no one has to know, and even if they did, they wouldn’t care because you’re on your own clock. One company in Oklahoma is giving the guilt-free workday playtime benefit to its workforce.

The law firm of Crowe & Dunlevy encourages, and even facilitates, a fantasy football league, according to an article by Paula Burkes, “Tackling Fantasy Football in the Workplace,” posted to NewsOK. Granted, the company reserves a conference room for the end of the workday, at 5:30 p.m., but still, I have to give it credit for actually blocking off time for this leisurely activity, especially given that 5:30 p.m. is often not the end of the workday for lawyers.

It’s also interesting to note that this law firm doesn’t block fantasy football Websites on its computers. As I’ve previously noted on this blog, many companies block social media sites and any site that has even a remote connection to fun. I once discovered the online radio site, Pandora, blocked on my office computer—so I just tune into it on my phone! In the age of the smart phone, blocking entertainment Websites on company computers is futile anyway. It also gives these sites the forbidden fruit mantel, so that because employees aren’t allowed to check their Facebook page for five minutes, they want to do it all the more, and turn to their phones for long periods of time to do so. Or they are just distracted thinking about doing it.

Like most entertainment sites that allow groups of people to gather and have fun together, a fantasy football site can be considered teambuilding, and, as Burkes quotes Adam Childers of Crowe & Dunlevy, can help employees get to know one another better: “You can say ‘hello’ all day long and never make a dent in getting to know people in the different areas of the firm,” he [Childers] said. “But after spending three hours eating pizza and agonizing over draft picks, you feel comfortable calling them up and saying, ‘Hey, I have a project I think you might like to work on.’”

In other words, participating in activities surrounding an entertainment-based Website does what the annual company holiday party, or even the occasional happy hour gathering, doesn’t do: It allows you to see another side of the people you labor with everyday.

As in all things management-wise, balance is important. It’s never going to be OK for employees to sacrifice the ability to get high-quality work done on time because they spent half the day on Facebook, but if they are able to get their work done, then why worry about it? Like I’ve always said, the ultimate measure of whether anything is a problem in the workplace is whether it hinders an employee’s or that employee’s colleagues’ productivity.

I think having access to social media and entertainment sites, and organizing events such as fantasy football leagues, actually helps productivity. Does anyone agree with me?

In addition to helping co-workers get to know each other better, this playtime helps relieve stress and might help you like your co-workers better. Someone you previously only felt irritated by suddenly may seem more charming and understandable after seeing another side to his or her personality. The stress-reducing aspects make coming to work less of a chore. The difficult customers and tight deadlines become more bearable when you know there’s also something enjoyable penciled—or tapped by smart phone—into your calendar.

Do you support full access to social media and entertainment Websites in your office, including the company facilitating related get-togethers in conference rooms? Does this help or hurt employees? Why?