10 Easy Ways to Take a 5-Minute Play Break at Work

If you or your team are feeling stressed or burned out, how about a quick play break?

Does play have a place at work, you may be asking? Absolutely.

If you think having fun doesn’t belong at work, consider this: play energizes people, reduces stress, improves mental health, increase creativity and productivity, and contributes to problem-solving.

Also consider this: despite having a crazy schedule, the CEO of LEGO starts meetings with a few minutes of play. Because he knows play matters, even for adults.

I learned that fact today (and was inspired to create and share these play breaks with you) after listening to a talk by Karen and Mike Psiaki called “Play Harder, Work Smarter.” They both work for LEGO and know a thing or two about play! But not everyone gets to have an office with buckets of building bricks everywhere and an actual playground slide indoors (!) so I wanted to share some simple, practical ideas with you.

Play doesn’t have to take long, cost money, or be a formal event. It can be simple, fast, and easy, in the middle of any workday.

You can use these play breaks to start a meeting with positive vibes, in the middle of a meeting (if things feel stuck or tense), or when people are tired or the energy in the room drops.

10 Easy 5-minute Play Breaks for Work

  1. Jam + draw. Turn on fun music and ask everyone to doodle. It can be free draw or give a prompt like “dream vacation” or “happy memory”. (Hat tip to Karen Psiaki for this idea.)
  2. Desk show + tell. Everyone goes around and shares one item in their space that’s out of camera view, and a short story or anecdote about it.
  3. Reconnect with what’s fun. Take your area of work and remember what’s fun about it. Geek out. If you’re engineers, talk about your favorite building sets as a kid. If you’re fashionistas or creatives, share your all-time favorite designer or outfit. If you’re writers, go around and share the most inspiring book you’ve read. If you’re in transportation, each person shares their dream car. You get the idea. 
  4. Get silly with serious stuff. Use office supplies around you for fun. Play Pictionary on the white board. Make origami out of post-it notes. Make paper airplanes out of printer paper. Turn a stack of books into dominos (set them up and knock them down).
  5. Brainy games. Write down as many state capitals as you can in 1 minute. Winner gets bragging rights. (Other prompts: world countries, vegetables, 20th century novels, etc.)
  6. Count to 10. Your group/team has to count to 10, collectively. Each person goes one at a time. Only one person can talk at a time. You can’t go twice in a row. If two people talk over each other, start over at 1.
  7. Book Balance. Everyone has 1 minute to balance a book on their head. Last one balancing wins! Make it harder by stacking books or adding a movement like hip circles. 
  8. Rocks, paper, scissors. A classic. You know what to do. In Zoom, you can do 2-person breakout rooms for 2-minutes. People can also just pair up in gallery view.
  9. Upside down. Everyone has 1 minute to turn as many objects as possible upside down (cup, book, framed photo, etc.). Must be in view of camera, must stay upside down. Whoever has the most wins!
  10. That was funny. Ask everyone to think about a laugh-out-loud funny memory. People can share if they feel moved to. Laughter is the best medicine!

Note: these were chosen to be pretty Zoom-friendly, as many people are still WFH at present, but most work great in-person, too.

Which of these would you try? Have you done any of these already? What would you add to this list? Tell me in the comments!

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