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The Business Case For Office Playtime


American workers are putting in longer hours than they have since the heyday of Henry Ford’s assembly line. As employees spend more and more time in their offices, they become more susceptible to burnout. And while wellness initiatives like outings and gym memberships can be effective for long-term retention, studies show they don’t actually make employees happier while they are at the office.

Incorporating spaces to play and relax could be the solution. Making time for play in the office can prevent burnout and ensure that employees stay productive over the course of a workday. There is a growing business case for play as an affordable and effective wellness tactic.

“There has to be an active approach to create space and time for play in the office,” said Robert Blackwell, CEO of Killerspin, a table tennis company whose UnPlugNPlay program has brought playspace to dozens of offices around Chicago. “When employees re-energize through 15-minute play breaks, you’re providing time away from screens that can help forge friendships and increase productivity, all at a fraction of the cost of other wellness programs.”

It is no secret that staying active can make employees more productive; regular activity is linked to improved concentration, sharper memory, enhanced creativity and lower stress. But there is a growing focus on activity and play not just before or after work, but in the midst of the workday.

Blackwell said that adding 15 minutes of play in the middle of the day offers many psychological benefits, citing Dr. Daniel Amen, who called table tennis “the best brain sport.” Along with making employees more creative and more productive, the movement and brain functions involved in playing a few rounds of table tennis can help relieve stress on a daily basis, Blackwell said. This adds up to long-term reduction in burnout.

Incorporating space for play in the office can also send a strong message to employees about office culture.


“Employees know that being active helps them concentrate, but even with all the known benefits, 55% of employees do not feel comfortable taking the breaks they need in order to be more successful,” Blackwell said. “Adding a ping-pong table to the environment sends a message to employees about the importance of play. Programming that experience will generate positive interpersonal interactions among employees.”

He added that having table tennis in the office can help attract a younger set of potential candidates that are seeking out productive, employee-first and forward-thinking workplace cultures.

Through its UnPlugNPlay program, Killerspin provides customized table tennis tables and paddles that can form the centerpiece of dedicated wellness spaces in the office — a place purposefully designed to be a respite from work. In these spaces, employees can bond on levels beyond their professional roles. 

“Having friends in the office boosts retention as well,” Blackwell said. “Gallup found that having two good friends in the office boosts job satisfaction by 25%. All this wellness and job satisfaction not only means that people work smarter and harder, but also leads to fewer employees leaving.”

Blackwell said companies can also bring in table tennis as part of a multipurpose room — Killerspin offers tables that transform into sleek conference tables for that exact reason.

Unlike expensive outings or memberships that need renewing every month, table tennis can be a smaller one-time investment in office wellness that pays for itself many times over in employee retention, he said.

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and Killerspin. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.