Remember to Play: 3 Strategies to Improve Your Startup Culture

Startup life is a whirlwind. With so many things to accomplish, it’s no surprise that many startups hesitate to incorporate fun activities into their schedule. “There is a whole tradition of assembly line thinking that if you are not perseverant and grinding it out and not paying attention to just the work process, it’s not going to get done and you aren’t being responsible”, explains Dr. Stuart Brown of the National Institute of Play. On the contrary, incorporating fun at work has been proven to boost creativity and productivity.

There is a strategy behind Google encouraging employees to play volleyball, go bowling or scale a rock wall, a reason why LinkedIn invests in weekly activities like sushi-making classes for their interns and suggests employees play ping-pong or foosball when they tire of responding to emails. Creating an enticing company culture can be beneficial on many levels: attracting the best talent and the brightest brains to your team, building momentum and engagement among employees, lowering stress, boosting optimism and increasing motivation to improve concentration and perseverance. The National Institute of Play adds, “Playing also engages the creative side of your brain. When you’re fully engaged in play, you lose some of your psychological barriers and stop censoring or editing your thoughts. This allows creative ideas to flow more freely”.

Unfortunately, we don’t all have a budget like Google. Here are a few ideas to inspire a bonded team, a sense of purpose and a fun work environment without spending a fortune:

  • Recognize small accomplishments too. Celebrate the little wins. When leaders acknowledge that the little accomplishments lead to big accomplishments, it encourages their team to do their best work. Create an infrastructure to reward accomplishments using incentives like gift cards, or even small vacations.
  • Create a collaborative work environment. Our age of technology makes it easy for employees to hide behind their computer all day. Create common areas where your team can communicate and collaborate face-to-face outside the board room like a cafe or a game room. Spaces like this allow people to be creative, be vocal and collaborate effectively.
  • Maintain an element of surprise. Symbols of appreciation, especially unexpected ones, serve as great motivation and are a useful tool in building momentum.

Ultimately, your employees are your greatest asset and it’s important to treat them that way. Establishing an exciting environment will make them look forward to the workday and result in better work, in a more effective manner.


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