How Playing Games at Work Drives Business Productivity

With competition comes excellence and we all want to be excellent.

There are two pathways to excellence.
1. Continuous self-improvement, going for a personal best, trying to shave time or extend distance against yesterday’s performance, and
2. Competition, where individuals pit themselves against colleagues to win. Childhood games, sports or a sales bullpen, there are winners and losers.

Social facilitation theory says sports people tend to have faster times when racing in the presence of a counterpart as opposed to racing alone. researchers found that the presence of another competitor serves to liberate latent energy not ordinarily available to the person.

How Does Playing Games Help?

The popularity of games in the workplace is rising. Many offices have breakout areas with ping-pong tables, fussball or air hockey. These games cannot be played alone. It is always at least two competitors striving to be the best. Games in the workplace:

  • Increases concentration and alertness
  • Stimulates brain function
  • Develops tactical thinking skills
  • Develops hand / eye coordination
  • Provides aerobic exercise
  • Provides social and recreational interaction

With a game like ping-pong you can get up, play for 20 mins, sweat a little, get your brain racing as you pick the best shots to win, and go back to your desk feeling energised, with improved attention span and elevated levels of healthy competitive behavior.

From a company perspective, culture is everything. Playing hard alongside working hard, builds teams and develops better staff relationships. That makes all the difference in engagement and motivation of employees.

Do We Need to Keep Score?

In business and sports, people play harder when there is a scoreboard and their performance is being watched. A study by Aberdeen Group found that companies using leaderboards to score performance realized two times higher year-over-year net income growth and three times higher year-over-year sales growth than those who didn’t. Measure everything of significance. Anything that matters should be measured and what is measured and watched, improves.

The reason for this is probably rooted in psychology. If you are constantly looking at a scorecard, you want your performance to improve. Intuitively, it makes sense. some companies worry that they may create a cut-throat, toxic cultures if they keep score. Maybe we just need to teach people the right way to keep score.

How Do Leaderboards Help?

A leaderboard is the visualization of staff performance against their allocation of the business’ key metrics.  It will improve employee productivity. When staff know they are being judged on the achievement of key metrics, and their performance is visible to the entire office, they work considerably harder to make sure their ranking on the leaderboard improves. The very act of keeping score motivates people, be they sportspeople or your staff, to produce better results.

If the leaderboard is also engaging, with custom themes, colorful progress bars and animated performance bubbles then its likely that employee satisfaction and enjoyment rise.


If athletes never kept score, performance wouldn’t be at the standard it is today. Golf scores would be higher, baseball pitches would be slower, Usain Bolt wouldn’t have run a sub 10 second 100 metre race! Introduce competitive behaviors, fuelled by physical competitions, display a scorecard and your business will seem similar results. Staff performance will increase and the workplace will be a happier one.

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About the Author:

Matt Bullock
Serial entrepreneur who loves a deep dive into technology and applying it to solve business problems. Matt recognized that gamification of business activity processes would lead to greater staff engagement, increase productivity and motivate the team to do more, so that businesses sell more and grow more.