Games are thought of to be a carefree activity by many people. But some fear the performance aspect of games.

Games, whether a puzzle or sport, can publicly test one's intelligence and physical prowess. However, this performance in front of others can be a source of anxiety. Having to answer questions quickly or make the right move with peers, friends, family, even in a game, does not sound like fun to many.

We have learned to curate sessions that cater to different comfort levels. We don't pressure people by saying "a third-grader completed our puzzle with ease, now you try." Our game sessions can build confidence, increase communication, and provide shared experiences. Instead of generating fear, Barometer’s games turn uncertainty into fun!

Build Confidence: Of course, we all want to win, but games allow you to get used to "losing": practicing trial and error is an essential part of growth. With every loss, you can learn something new. Games can teach new problem-solving skills, offer motivation to improve and provide a nice dose of humility. Overcoming obstacles that you have previously failed at will eventually do wonders for your confidence.

Increase Communication: How many times have seen communication barriers fall while playing games with others? A person you previously hadn’t spoken with is now talking and laughing with you on a regular basis. Games offer the right amount of competition and collaboration to open and increase communication. Games can even be designed to improve non-verbal communication, from drawing a visual or doing a body movement. These different forms of communication can highlight skills or information that was previously unknown or hidden.

Create Shared Experiences: Shared experiences can increase social bonding. We need shared experiences to produce positive mental health outcomes, such as lowering feelings of depression and isolation and creating a sense of belonging. After a few meaningful play sessions, the fear of playing goes away. Who knows...there might even be new and meaningful relationships formed after these experiences.

Though games are great at showing different skillsets, they do not always have to be stressful performative acts that many people fear. That's why we build games that explore the pressure of fear. In a tech-driven world, it can be a challenge to connect with others. Games can be an excellent medium (digital or non-digital) to engage together. The next time you play a game, even if there is a little fear, embrace the moment for learning, growth, and connection.

Why playing helps engage your team in routine meetings

Most Zoom meetings have an incredibly predictable flow to them. The typical start goes something like this.

  • People gradually pop on the screen over the course of a few minutes.

  • A few people make casual chit-chat, which frequently gets interrupted as new people join the call. The same small-talk questions are often asked over and over again, with no one getting to provide, or hear, a full, satisfying answer.

  • At least one person has connectivity problems, and can't get the audio or visual working right away.

  • Once you have critical mass, someone calls the meeting to order and you start talking business.

It's simple, straightforward, and efficient. But it is fun? Inspiring? Engaging?

No, no, and no!

In this age of meeting overload, we all want our meetings to be efficient so we don't have to spend more time on Zoom than we need to. But that doesn't mean you can't add in one or two novel and fun items into the agenda. By including a short game or exercise at the start of the meeting, you can actually boost everyone's energy and engagement for the rest of the meeting. So while the meeting may last 10 minutes longer, everyone is getting more value from it.

Creating a positive workplace culture is not just about dishing out higher salaries or bonuses and giving away free snacks. It’s about creating an environment in which employees feel that they are valued.

In the previous posts, I talked about how the true measure and definition of culture is what the people who work in the workplace actually experience on the ground, day to day, and whether the actual experience of the culture matches with the description of culture from the leadership.

In this post, I'm going to talk about what you can do to close the gap between how culture is described and how it is experienced, and how to make a lasting and effective culture change, regardless of your position. It all comes down to accountability.

Below are some tips for building in cultural accountability.

Only Promise What You Can Implement

For workplace leaders and those who define and set the culture, it's important to make sure that the policies and practices that are promoted as part of the culture are actually feasible to implement. For example, if you want to be a workplace that invests in employees’ professional development, you need to have resources and processes to make this happen. This can mean budgeting a certain amount for each person to attend conferences, bringing in outside experts to provide training to employees, or creating a forum for employees to deliver workshops and presentations to each other, just to give a few examples. But failure on part of the company to provide any formal structure to deliver on culture promises will make the whole notion of culture seem disingenuous, and result in distrust and low morale.

Build Culture Into Performance Expectations...for Everyone

To maintain a positive and healthy culture, everyone needs to trust that they are working in a fair and transparent system. To do this, the behaviors that exemplify the culture need to be included in all position descriptions and part of the performance review process for everyone, from the highest leadership on down. A surefire way to turn a workplace culture toxic is holding different people up to different standards, or even having the perception of doing so.

As John Amaechi said on a recent episode of Adam Grant's *Work Life* podcast, "culture is defined by the worst behavior tolerated." In order to have a positive and healthy culture, each individual needs to trust that everyone else is on board with the culture, and see that people whose behavior doesn't promote the culture will face appropriate consequences. For example, if a company holds itself up as having an inclusive culture, it can't overlook a CEO who had a habit of telling sexist jokes. The company would need to have mechanisms to make sure 1) people feel comfortable calling out bad behavior, 2) there is a process to help people atone for or improve their behavior, and 3) anyone who repeatedly fails to uphold company culture is fired.

Value Continuous Improvement

While the culture should make clear what practices and behaviors will and will not be tolerated in a workplace, a healthy culture is one that sets all employees up to succeed. This means starting with an open acknowledgment that no one is expected to be perfect and it's everyone's job to help everyone else to grow. Here are some examples of how to do this:

  • Encourage and empower everyone, regardless of their role, to provide and accept constructive feedback. This may mean offering regular training or resources on constructive feedback and ensuring that managers are regularly soliciting feedback from the people they supervise.

  • Avoid blaming or punishing people when errors occur. Treat mistakes as a learning experience and opportunity to teach new skills or emphasize accountability by collectively creating a plan to correct the issue and prevent it from happening again. Mistakes are just that, mistakes; they are not intentional and should not be used to hang over someone’s head. It’s likely that whoever made the mistake is already beating him/her-self up and won't benefit from the added blame.

  • Ensure managers make time for regular check-ins with supervisors and opportunities for peer feedback. Employees love to know when they’ve done something well or seek advice on how to improve.

Creating a positive office culture does not have to be expensive or complicated. By making small, concerted changes you can greatly improve employee engagement and the overall productivity of your business. Otherwise, change is impossible.