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Employees would be more productive and successful if offices scrapped their annual Christmas party and instead offered year round play in the office, new research reveals.

The study, by BrightHR and leading wellbeing at work expert Professor Sir Cary Cooper, found companies which provided fun in the office all year around – such as Xbox games, karaoke and luxury massages – were more likely to have a productive, creative and engaged team.

It Pays to Play, a study of 2000 employees in the UK, found nearly a quarter enjoyed office parties and socials, with the office Christmas party being an annual highlight.

But according to Bright HR, a people management software company, companies today put too much emphasis on the party at the end of the year – arguing social gatherings should be a frequent and regular part of working life for a more sustained work force.

However enforcing play in the office 365 days a year isn’t always going to be a simple task, as the study also revealed a wide gender gap when it came to what employees valued as fun work.

Men cited pool, Xbox and fantasy football leagues as their top way to have a good time in the office while women leaned towards bake-offs, massage days and a cuddle with office pets.

Interestingly, one of top activities enjoyed in the office were something as simple as a dress down Friday, proving employees actually value to the little things which make work a fun place to be all year than a one-off extravagance.

During the research, employees also claimed office fancy dress days, yoga classes and even board games made them excited to go to work and as a result more productive.

Creativity was also significantly higher among those that had experienced fun at work in the last six months compared to those that hadn’t.

Workers currently taking part in fun activities in their organisation were significantly more likely to have had greater psychological well-being and better health in the last three months than those who didn’t.

Co-founder Paul Harris of BrightHR, said: “This is a really interesting statistic which highlights even more clearly that work fun shouldn’t be held back to the end of the year.

“If play and fun at work is the best way to engage with your staff then party with them 365 days a year. Little and often is going have a far more positive impact on office moral and engagement.

“Fun doesn’t have to cost a lot. It doesn’t have be a big boozy night out. It could simply be laughing with colleagues, celebrating office birthdays, dress down Fridays or enjoying work related tasks. If an employee feels valued and engaged all year round they are going to not only want to come back to work in January after the festive break, but look forward to it.”

Supporting the decision to maintain social engagement 365 days a year and not just at Christmas time, psychologist Professor Sir Cary Cooper, said: “It’s important to remember introducing fun in the workplace isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach.

“Positive emotions are driven by different factors for different people. While men prefer computer games, for instance, women want a more social orientation. Fun is a really personal thing, and, generally speaking, people don’t have very high expectations about what employers should provide.

“Instead, it’s more about employers and managers giving their teams permission to take the lead and initiate play all year round.”

Then world leading expert on wellbeing at work added: “Work is no longer about getting the job done and then going home for your fun – we want to enjoy fun at work too.

“It could be because we work longer hours, have to wait longer for retirement and have less financial security from work, meaning we need to get some other return for our time investment.

“There is proof to indicate play at work helps boost employees mental wellbeing as well as making the team more productive. If our work force needs this kind of engagement all year round it is important we identity with this rather than offering one-off rewards in and around stressful periods.

“When it comes to gender, this study shows gender stereotypes are alive and kicking when it comes to fun and it raises an interesting question about how companies can make workplaces fun without favouring the dominant gender or inadvertently creating a gender divide.” Main points again:

  • HR experts claim scrapping the staff Christmas party shouldn’t make a difference to office moral – if you have a happy and engaged team at work for the rest of the year
  • Top psychologist claims year-long workplace fun promotes psychological wellbeing and boosts productivity
  • The gender gap has never been wider when it comes to fun activities at work 365 days a year – with men opting for the office XBox while women prefer massage days

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