Teambuilding, always critical to employees’ feelings of belonging and commitment to the organizational mission, has taken on whole new meaning in the past two years.  Many companies are still finding their footing in their existing ecosystems or creating their own, one that likely includes some sort of hybrid work arrangement. An estimated 74% of companies are moving in this direction,  due to a combination of factors including a reduction in overhead, the migration of talent who moved during the pandemic, and the fact that more than half of workers prefer at least three days of remote work each week. Moreover, businesses – even those in fields historically known for their unforgiving schedules such as corporate law – are trying to build cultures that nurture mental health and work-life balance – and protect themselves from the large-scale turnover we’ve seen recently.

Bridging Gaps

As we learned during the pandemic, working from home, even part of the time, solved many issues while exacerbating and creating others. Sure, it cut down on costly and time-consuming commutes, but in some cases it also decreased employee engagement. Employees who could barely keep their eyes open during a four-hour training found it even more difficult when they didn’t have others around to chat and commiserate with. Those who already felt out of step with their colleagues or management might became even more isolated when working remotely, and even recognition for a job well done is far less exciting when celebratory toasts are made over Zoom.

Cocktails aside, gamification platforms go a long way to bridging those gaps when it comes to teambuilding. For example, they provide continuity, allowing members to feel connected to each other even when their in-person schedules are staggered. In fact, depending on the platform, it can even promote relationships among people with whom they would never interact in the halls of their office buildings, such as in company-wide competitions.

Also, one of the reasons gamification is so successful, both in education and at work, is that it harnesses the brain’s natural ways of learning and processing information. The user’s personal connection to the world of the game facilitates the development of critical thinking and analytical skills, while the attainment of rewards stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers, producing a chemical reaction that entices them to return. However, it goes deeper than that by also tapping into our tendencies around social interaction. As this Forbes article points out, humans are wired to constantly measure themselves and their circumstances against others. Much like our natural competitive drive, this tendency can be toxic – as we have seen with social media platforms that encourage unfavorable comparisons of lifestyles, physical appearance, and social status. Gamification, on the other hand, is highly empowering, as it channels that energy into excitement and motivation to continually increase performance.

While the benefits of incorporating gamification are numerous and have the potential to revolutionize work culture, it can also be both costly and time-consuming; therefore, companies must be very intentional about choosing a platform based on their structure, vision, and employees’ needs.  Here are some things to consider:

Finite vs. Infinite

Finite versus Infinite. As the names suggest, finite games end after a specific time or event, such as a quarterly quota, while infinite gamification becomes a fully integrated part of the everyday routine. Both are useful when it comes to teambuilding; that said, infinite gamification must regularly be evaluated and revamped to make sure it is not becoming humdrum, which would be counterproductive, bringing growth to a halt and possibly reducing motivation.

Competitive and Collaborative Goals

One of the great things about gamification is that it makes space for our dual needs for unity and individual recognition. Depending on the type of culture you have or are building, it might appear your team leans into one more than the other;  however, it’s still a good idea to have a mix of goals that draw on each person’s skills (including those they may not even know they have) and strengthen their commitment to the common vision.

Rewarding Employees

This is another big one that is worth polling your employees about. While money  is usually a safe bet as a motivator, it is not the end all, be all. As mentioned, well-being tops the list of requirements for job satisfaction and plays a huge role for those fielding offers – this includes policies that value one’s time, family lives, and self-care.  You might think about offering more vacation time – and insist that they are actually unplugged from work – or perhaps an experience that includes their kids, a weekend retreat to a spa or meditation center, or a gym membership. Also, if you do offer financial compensation, keep in mind that form is important. You want to make sure that it is distinguishable from their regular paycheck or bonus, for example, by offering a gift card rather than another direct deposit.

Since 2020 the world has been waiting for the “new normal” to materialize, and while it is in many ways still taking shape, a clear picture has emerged. Just as hybrid work is here to stay, so is gamification, and for many of the same reasons: it reduces stress, maximizes time and productivity, and generally reflects our increasing emphasis on personal and professional well-being. That said, it also requires of companies the same thing it requires of its users: flexibility and the willingness to continually self-evaluate, expand, and evolve.

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