Why Should We Play at Work?

By Gabriela Constantinescu, Co-Founder of PlayLearn

Why should we play at work?..

Play is something we usually do less and less once we go to school. We have to make room for learning. Then we move from school to work, where we still have to be driven by performance and results. Playing is often seen as a distraction, as something we have to make room for to the detriment of our productivity.

However, bringing play and learning together is a lot more beneficial than keeping them apart. According to Steam, people spent 31.3 billion hours playing games in 2020, with 50% more than the previous year. And no matter what our opinion about games is, one thing is certain: games are good at creating engagement. When you play a game, you work toward a goal, you make choices and you experience the consequences of your choices. Most importantly, games offer a simulated environment, where it is safe to fail. Your company will lose money if you fail in the real world, but it won’t if you fail during a game.

In her book ‘Reality Is Broken’, Jane McGonigal says ‘no one likes to fail. So how is it that gamers can spend 80% of the time failing, and still love what they’re doing?’. Games challenge us with voluntary obstacles and tasks that are slightly above our skill level. Thus, we build our resilience and put our personal strengths to use. 

Game-based learning generates active learning, as opposed to passive learning. When playing a game, you work toward a goal and you learn through repetition and a constant and fast feedback loop. Game-based learning is built to be adaptive from the beginning. As new information comes out in the field, games can be changed to suit them, while keeping the engagement high. 

The pandemic made us question many things, including how we learn. Were our old ways of delivering training actually wired into how we learn best? How can we get better at learning? How can we make learning more effective?

According to Gartner’s HR Trends Report for 2021, the shift to remote work has huge implications for HR. Preserving company culture with a more distributed workforce and ensuring a good employee experience are key challenges. Also, the need for upskilling has accelerated. According to Gartner’s report, 31% of HR leaders feel they can’t create skill development solutions fast enough to meet evolving skill needs. Also, 36% of them say that they don’t know what skill gaps our current employees have. For 33% of HR leaders the challenge is that they don’t effectively integrate learning into employee workflows.

The pandemic made our attention span even shorter. It left us with the paradox of having less space for learning, but more need to learn new skills. It made it necessary to condense our learning experiences. Full day training sessions became impossible to deliver. 

But there is definitely a silver lining here. We have been given the opportunity to become better at learning. What we’ve learnt in almost four years of creating games for the corporate environment, either tabletop or digital, is that harnessing what games do well and applying that to the work environment can help us learn better. 

Creating more effective and adaptive ways of learning new skills in the remote work arena is key to the future of our organisations. With this in mind, we created Chambr, a platform where HR leaders and trainers can upload their learning content and transform it into a game. Chambr is a web-based platform, with no download required. It can accommodate hundreds of players and is highly customizable to suit any audience’s learning needs. The games we play with Chambr generate active learning and also enable a context for peer to peer learning and giving feedback between employees. How long a game lasts is also customizable, depending on the overall length of the learning experience. You can even play sessions as short as 15 minutes, it all depends on your needs. 

During the game, each player receives a role – they can be either a Speaker or a Listener. The Speaker receives a challenge to solve, in a designated time. The Listeners hear the Speaker out, offer them a score and are also encouraged to give feedback. Everyone is equally given a voice and gets to be the Speaker. The game capitalizes the expertise and knowledge that already exist in your organization and enables players to learn new techniques and approaches from each other. 

Let’s say you’d like to train your team to have difficult conversations. Chambr offers them the opportunity to practise and receive feedback before doing that in the real world and experiencing real consequences. In this case, one example of a challenge would be “You are witnessing a conversation between 2 members of your team. The first one is giving a rather aggressive feedback, while the second seems stuck and unable to express their opinion. Speak to them.”

Chambr also allows you to add extra learning layers into your game. You can ask the Speaker to solve the challenge through the lens of a company value or a key concept you’d like them to integrate. This way, players apply concepts to real situations and study cases rather than have the content delivered to them in a theoretical way. 

We believe playing and learning go hand in hand and are a perfect match, both for remote and offline work. The pandemic has forced learning designers to create innovative solutions that will last, even if we return to our offices and we strongly believe that game-based learning is one of these. We can’t help but imagine how amazing the world would be if people went to work with the same enthusiasm they feel whilst playing their favourite game. 

Like Jane McGonigal says, everyone in a good game has tried hard, has played fair and has worked together. Isn’t that what we wish from our workplaces?


McGonigal, J. (2011). Reality is broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world. Vintage Books London

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