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December 12, 2008

Offices Use Video Games To Raise Morale, Productivity

In professional settings, playing games at the office is restricted to the occasional go at Minesweeper or Solitaire. People in the working world may snatch a quick round of Hearts on their lunch break, but generally, the majority of games played in an office setting are in the boardroom, not the monitor of your computer.

The times, they are a changing.

Several companies have learned that video games are a cool reward for employees who meet their goals and expectations laid out for them. Providing this incentive can increase their productivity and perk up behavior and morale.

At Regence Blue Cross/Blue Shield in Portland, Oregon, IT workers earn virtual "tokens" for accomplishing activities. Employees then "spend" them to play swift video games.

The gaming-at-work concept was created by Snowfly, a company that sells technology-based employee motivation. Snowfly says that their products amplify motivation and productivity as workers employ competition win prizes. The company states that the arrangement has a 95 percent approval rate those who use their products.

In several organizations, playing the games makes up their corporate culture, and practically everyone participates. At the Computing Technology Industry Association, or CompTIA, president and CEO Todd Thibodeaux and his workers frequently help Tiger Woods hit a few round of golf on the Wii, or have a rapid round of Forza 2 or Stardust on the PS3.

Outside of their game/conference room, inter-department rivals regularly and happily trash talk over the wall of their cubicles.

Thibodeaux encourages his employees to play. "Salaried employees know that their work day is what they need it to be," he says, "and if they need to squeeze in 15 to 20 minutes of leisure time here or there, they know they can make it up later."

Thibodeaux presents several reasons for allowing this: It's a team-building activity, especially when people meet around a gaming console in a single room. Also, "stress relief really increases productivity, especially at busy times of the year." But most of all, says Thibodeaux, the policy is not abused.

Lee Burbage, the HR director for the Web site Motley Fool, agrees. His 200-employee company has a huge game room. Here, Halo keeps his staff coming back for more.

Burbage thinks that gaming is beneficial for his employees. "People need a break. Studies show that if you just sit at your desk all day, productivity goes down and down."

Burbage adds that his company's atmosphere has keep employee turnover at a microscopic 4 percent annually.

"And hey, it's fun," adds Burbage. "After I go play Halo, I come back and I'm happy and in a good mood."

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