Inside the walls of our agency is a table.
White, long, surrounded by swivel chairs, it looks like your run of the mill conference table; and it is, until suddenly, Chris looks across the room with a fire in his eyes and says, “Dan, how about a quick round?”
They stand, take position on either end of the table, and synchronize as their hands disappear underneath the surface. They pull, splitting the table in two and revealing a net and paddles stowed away inside.
As if by magic, this meeting place transforms into a playground. To quote my dear mother: “You have a Ping-pong table in your place of work!?”
Yes, we do. Now clear the court as I explain.
1. Ignore the sweat: Ping-pong is a brain sport.
Scientists have researched Ping-pong in a neurological context, and the results are fascinating.
One of these scientists is Dr. Wendy Suzuki, professor of neuroscience and psychology at New York University, who completed a study on the effects of playing Ping-pong on the brain. She found that there are three major areas of the brain stimulated during play:
-The primary motor cortex and cerebellum: Triggered as you’re employing fine motor skills to dive for and hit the ball.
-The prefrontal cortex: Involved when you’re analyzing your opponent’s move and strategizing your next one.
-The hippocampus (the long-term memory center): Stimulated as you’re engaging in aerobic exercise throughout the entire game.
It’s all great stuff, but how does this research translate into a successful office environment?
In short, the neurological and physical activity stimulated by Ping-pong can increase employee engagement, morale, and productivity.
For example, a 20-minute game of Ping-pong can help combat the sluggishness and inattentiveness that accompany the post-lunch slump at work, suggests Dr. Daniel Amen. As blood sugar levels drop following the sudden rush of sugar caused by eating a meal, playing Ping-pong boosts employees’ energy and concentration.
Ping-pong also carries the benefit of stimulating the tactically centered portions of the mind.
Ping-pong proves more efficient than most of these other activities because it also works the most important “muscle” of the body -- the brain.
Combine these benefits with the most obvious by-product of the game, (fun!), and you’ve got yourself one of the most efficient and mindfully engaging sports there is.
2. It takes two to Ping-pong.
Socializing. While it’s the most important thing in the world in middle school, it’s also a skill that should continue to be sharpened throughout your professional career.
Ping-pong is inherently a social activity, requiring at least two people to play (duh). However, the game goes a step further by challenging your physical and emotional intelligence, as actively trying to predict your opponent’s next strike is essential to sending the ball back to the other end of the table.
Ping-pong is as much a relationship building tool as it is a productivity booster, and the benefits of a socially engaging work environment cannot be underestimated.
Research shows that workplaces with close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%. But perhaps even more telling, employees with a best friend at work are seven times more likely to engage fully in their work.
3. Ping-pong means you have a good company cultu - hold up.
Let’s be clear. A Ping-pong table does not define your company’s culture. Mat Beeche from Startup Daily describes it best:
“The fact is, you can’t paint a mural on an office wall and call it ‘culture’ – it just creates a perception of ‘culture’. True culture is about the people within an organization and the way they interact with each other, and that is the reason that ping pong plays such an important role in the offices of some of the world’s most successful startups.” Source.
What a Ping-pong table and other company perks do show about your company, though, is its commitment to its employees. It encapsulates the productive, employee-first, and forward-thinking attitudes so many startups have espoused; and, with so much persistent success in the startup world, it seems that Ping-pong in the office is here to stay.
Send us a note about your unique company culture on Twitter @QuattroPhilly. We’d love to hear what makes your office a great place to work.