Game On: How Play at Work Can Strengthen Professional Relationships

Last Updated: 

February 29, 2024

The business world moves fast these days. New technologies and marketing ideas pop up all the time, so professionals have to be willing to try new things to stay competitive. One trend catching on is using playful games and activities at conferences, retreats, and other work events. At first, this might sound weird or unprofessional. But research and real-world experience show the big benefits of playful relationship-building at work.

Key Takeaways On How Play Can Strengthen Work Relationships:

  1. Play at Work: Incorporating playful games and activities at work events, such as conferences and retreats, can strengthen professional relationships and offer significant benefits.
  2. Changing Attitudes: The traditional view of work as entirely serious and formal is shifting as companies recogniSe the advantages of play in fostering trust, communication, and teamwork among employees.
  3. Benefits of Play: Playful interactions lead to stronger relationships, trust, communication, and collaboration among coworkers, resulting in increased innovation, productivity, and flexibility within the organisation.
  4. Client Interactions: Playful interactions with clients can boost likability, sales, and lead to repeat business and referrals, making them more down-to-earth and creative in the eyes of customers.
  5. Networking Games: Networking games, such as speed networking, trivia, and scavenger hunts, facilitate meaningful conversations, break the ice, and build work relationships during professional gatherings.
  6. Transition to Digital: As business shifts to digital platforms, playful networking games can be seamlessly adapted online, adding engagement and dynamics to virtual interactions.
  7. Balancing Professionalism and Play: Finding the right balance between professionalism and playfulness can lead to stronger bonds, teamwork, innovation, and business success.
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Playtime Is Becoming More Common at Work

Crossplay games, icebreakers, and fun interactions are popping up more at professional get-togethers. Many folks still think work should be super serious and formal. But attitudes are starting to shift as companies realise the good stuff that comes from lightening up.

Playing games together helps coworkers open up. It lets them step outside their regular work roles and connect as humans. This leads to stronger trust, communication, and teamwork within the organisation. Adding playful components also makes work events more engaging and dynamic. Instead of sitting through boring lectures, people are up and active solving fun challenges together. This boosts energy, sparks creativity, and gets everyone pumped up.

Forward-thinking companies are starting to intentionally build play into their programs. For example, the software company Intuit has new hires do lots of improv exercises together during orientation. Although it's silly, it teaches important skills like listening, communicating, and collaborating. Other companies are adding fun activities like yoga, comedy shows, and dance parties to their yearly meetings. While different from the norm, playful stuff like this brings people together.

Play Strengthens Work Relationships and Business Results

At first glance, play time might seem pointless or distracting from serious work matters. But research shows it actually provides real benefits for organisations.

Doing team building activities in relaxed, social settings makes for stronger relationships between coworkers. Employees who connect in fun ways have higher trust in each other. This trust leads to better communication and collaboration across teams and departments. And this leads to greater innovation, productivity, and flexibility within the company.

In customer-facing roles, playful interactions with clients can increase likability and sales. A little humour makes professionals seem more down-to-earth. Clients also see playful people as more creative and human. These positive feelings often lead to repeat business and referrals.

Studies back this up too. Companies where managers encourage humor and fun have higher employee engagement, less turnover, and better financial results. Work matters should absolutely be taken seriously. But sprinkling in playful connections has proven to boost work success.

Networking Games Help Make Professional Gatherings More Meaningful

Networking games are a great example of how play can help build work relationships. Rather than boring lectures or stiff mix-and-mingle sessions, event planners can use fun games to spark meaningful conversations.

Popular options include speed networking, mystery partners, scavenger hunts, trivia, video game tournaments, improv skits, and group challenges. Each game gives people a way to break the ice, chat naturally, and find common interests. A little friendly competition keeps energy levels high and gives shyer folks an easy icebreaker.

Some may think games like twister or karaoke seem unprofessional at formal business functions. But these activities get people talking, laughing, and thinking creatively. The fun might seem unproductive, but it builds connections that evolve into collaborative work relationships.

Adapting Events and Connections to the Digital Age

The pandemic sped up the switch to digital in business. With less in-person meetings and events, professionals have turned to virtual collaboration. And many companies plan to use more digital technologies like blockchain—41% of marketing managers want to use it for ads. This shows a bigger shift to digital across business.

Luckily, playful networking games can transition seamlessly online. Web apps allow interactive games and activities in video breakout rooms. Event platforms can incorporate playful interactions using augmented reality (AR) effects. Some organisations have virtual hosts guide attendees through everything from trivia nights to dance battles!

While some struggle with the switch to digital, playful online team building makes screen interactions more dynamic and engaging. It breaks up the monotony of continuous video calls and replaces stiff small talk with fun and friendly competition. Professionals embracing playful approaches can keep building strong relationships—whether together IRL or connecting online.


Playful interaction contradicts most folks' views of professional behaviour. But human beings crave real connections and enjoyable experiences. Finding the right balance of professionalism and playfulness has big benefits for people, teams, and organisations.

Sprinkling in purposeful games and laughs at company events helps break down walls and build stronger bonds. These connections lead to incredible improvements in teamwork, innovation, and business success.

Rather than avoiding new ideas like playful networking games, professionals should see them as tools for measurable personal and company growth. The future favors those who effectively mix work and play.

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