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How children’s games can inspire office life

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Walking through LEGO®'s UK headquarters in London feels like stepping back into childhood.

At LEGO® HQ, play is serious business. From creative collaboration to purposeful problem solving, play is integral to the much-loved toy company’s success.

A bright yellow staircase appears to be built from giant LEGO® blocks. Each of the office’s five levels boasts a different fun theme. Stations with LEGO® blocks are dispersed throughout, inviting any employee to take a quick break just to play.

LEGO®'s COO Bali Padda has said the office design brings together employees from different roles to learn from each other. Playing also encourages workers to become more comfortable with creative risk-taking. And it creates a more cheerful and pleasant work environment.

While the day-to-day operations of your business might not be creating and marketing toy blocks, you can still take a page from LEGO®'s book. Here’s how you can incorporate children’s games and playful activities into your own office for improved productivity and happiness.

Incorporate toys to keep minds busy

Who said colouring is just for kids? The popularity of adult colouring books is on the rise. It’s more than just a creative outlet. Colouring is also used in art therapy to promote stress reduction and to relax the brain. From cityscapes and mandalas to nature scenes and animals, colouring books created especially for adults spark creativity.

Colouring might not be for everyone, but everyone has a favourite childhood toy. Studies have found certain hand movements help improve cognitive functioning, boost focus, and spark new ideas. Encourage workers to have toys on their desk to keep their hands busy instead of repeatedly clicking their pen or wildly pacing during phone calls. Some ideas might be mouldable putty, a Rubik's cube, or squeezable balls. 

What’s more, these desktop toys are great conversation starters. Your colleagues might be enticed to pick them up and play. More impromptu interactions like this help build a stronger workplace culture.

Play with purpose to solve problems

As adults, it might feel silly or weird to play at work. Consider group-led facilitations that encourage play, problem-solving and thoughtful group discussions.

LEGO® offers products specifically for this purpose as part of its LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Method. The researched-backed and play-based methodology quite literally uses LEGO®s as building blocks to bring teams together, understand the perspectives of others and ultimately solve real business problems.

The sessions are meant to encourage idea-sharing among organisations where people might not always see eye-to-eye. On their website, LEGO® says the methodology is a constructive process to help increase team understanding and reduce frustration while gaining new learning, insights and new ways of thinking.

Here’s how it works: every participant starts with their own pile of LEGO® parts, connectors and blocks. A facilitator gives prompts and scenarios. Everyone builds their own 3D model, which serve as a jumping off point for dialogue. Though LEGO® sells the kits (including a Starter Kit, Window Exploration Bag, Connections Kit and Identity and Landscape Kit), the company does not facilitate the workshops. Independent consultants, facilitators and consulting companies lead LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® sessions. Short sessions last three to four hours, though the program can be extended into multi-day workshops as well.

Go back to basics with just-for-fun play

Sometimes, it's best to go back to basics. Consider party games or group games you enjoyed playing as a child that require no tools or setup.

The purpose of these activities isn’t necessarily to solve hard problems or change how people work. It’s to create a more relaxed environment that brings employees together to enjoy each other’s company. Here are some examples of possible games: 

Listen and pass it on

•           Have people sit in a circular fashion or around a table.

•           The person who starts decides on a sentence or phrase.

•           They whisper their phrase into the ear of the person seated to their right.

•           Everyone passes the message along in the same fashion.

•           The last person in the chain says the sentence out loud.

•           See how it morphs and changes along the way.

Act out and guess the celebrity

•           Everyone participating writes down the name of three celebrities.

•           Fold all paper in the same fashion and place in a bowl.

•           Create teams. To do this fairly, everyone writes their name on a piece of paper. Draw names from a separate bowl to create teams.

•           Split into teams and take turns.

•           Pull a celebrity name from the bowl.

•           Set a one-minute timer.

•           Encourage your teammates to guess the celebrity by acting it out.

•           If no one guesses the celebrity, place it back into the bowl.

•           The first team to guess five celebrities wins. 

We spend so much of our lives at work. Shouldn’t we try to have a little fun? With these strategies and activities, you can create a more inspired office life that helps your employees work hard and play hard.  

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