Bosses Should Encourage Online Gaming At Work

CBS CEO Leslie Moonves once had an impressive zinger when speaking about his company making NCAA tournament games available online during work hours. Citing data showing game viewing had a huge negative impact on worker output, he said something resembling: if there's a $1 billion decline in productivity, pay us $1.3 billion and we'll stop the streaming.

Apparently, the metrics are different with another kind of games: those falling under an umbrella of casual and social ones online. Companies may want to send out memos or put up signs by the vending machine encouraging employees to take some time off from grueling work to play FarmVille, Mafia Wars, Will & Grace Trivia or Housewives of New Jersey Hidden Charms.

New data shows playing at work increases focus, creativity and industriousness. It suggests bosses catching employees doing well with trivia or outfoxing bad guys should accept the following excuse: Uh, I was just doing prep work to make sure the presentation I'm working on indeed wows the client.



Well, the data is self-serving, coming from GSN (Game Show Network), which has been trying to build a robust interactive complement to its on-air product for years. Yet, should it be dismissed out of hand?

Even though GSN's content offers a natural link, it's far from the only network looking to capitalize on the online gaming boom set to only increase with the spread of smartphones and tablets and Facebook platform. Many network Web sites offer robust gaming opportunities, many of which are affiliated with their shows.

On Friday, USA network said it was launching an interactive, comic book series linked with drama "Burn Notice," with gaming as a component. Bravo has the Jersey Housewives dress-up game. The list goes on.

With many women having gravitated to online games over the years, Lifetime has been at it for a while and built a library with seemingly unending choices. (In part, that offers it opportunities for sponsorships such as a Windex Spider Solitaire.) 

So along comes GSN suggesting playing these games -- and of course its own ones such as Wheel of Fortune -- help people deliver on the job.

Some findings from its online survey of 800 players on in May:

-35% play during the workday (about half are playing during lunch or other "official breaks," which means half are teeing up at unauthorized times).

-Almost 80% feel they benefit from "periodic mental breaks" that come from games, helping increase their focus.

-59% play for 30 minutes or less and those say a small break brings renewed focus and better creative juices and also "calms them down during stressful situations."

In a sense, GSN emphasizing the boost that can come from playing in short bursts undermines its overall case. Surely, it believes its games are compelling enough to engage people for hours.

Yet, this concept that inspiration can come from a game break is worth some experimentation. No doubt, the billions reading this are about to do their own research. 

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