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Can Ping Pong in the office increase productivity?

Written by: on  August 13, 2012

David Lowe
Often at the office my business partner and I hit a shuttlecock (badminton) back and forth as it helps us brainstorm. The popularity of sports/games in the workplace is rising.

Ex-Londoner and founder of UBERPONG, David Lowe, is a good friend that moved from London to Austin Texas to popularise ping pong, including in your corporate office. So let’s explore the title of this post: can ping pong increase office productivity?

Dr. Daniel Amen, a renowned member of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, specifically points out that table tennis:

  • Increases concentration and alertness
  • Stimulates brain function
  • Develops tactical thinking skills
  • Develops hand / eye coordination
  • Provides aerobic exercise
  • Provides social and recreational interaction

Sounds like good stuff to bounce around in the workplace, no?! David has done his research and is building a case for the inclusion of table tennis in an office near you.

 


Enter David:

How did you come to the conclusion that it’s a good idea to have a ping pong table in the workplace?

David: Think of the average day in London. The bell goes off and you start work, have lunch and it’s all very mechanical – like school. I tried going to the gym before work, forget it. I tried during lunch and there wasn’t enough time. So I ended up sitting the whole day – which as research points out, is killing us. With a game like ping pong you can get up, play for 20 mins, break a lil sweat, get your brain racing and come back to work refreshed.

The British seem to forget that the asthetics are so important. The lack of sunlight, the grey sky, the grey buildings – I think if you have that on your way to work, and you get to work and there is no colour at work, it leads to depression. A culture of keep calm and carry on…  personally I think that London, especially, needs color in the workplace.

 

Anything that makes ping pong unsuitable for a workplace?

David: The two objections to keep in mind are: (1) the space it takes up and (2) the noise.

 

But ping pong tables can work well for meetings. Kun Dang, the founder of an SEO agency in Shoreditch, between games uses the table as a meeting table:

Kun: It (ping pong) is the perfect break away from what you are doing. The whole aim of a break is think about something else. The great thing about ping pong is everyone knows how to play. In Shoreditch there are ping pong tables popping up everywhere. They’re even in soho square. It’s just one of those office sports that is active and brings out the competitive nature in people – which is a great thing for business!

Office ping pong as meeting table(pic above) A snazzy meeting table that converts to table tennis and back from Table&Tennis

 

What about attracting young talent to your workplace?

David: If you look at GenYs, they expect way more than GenXs from a workplace. When they come in the first day they will decide that day if they want to stick around. It’s all about the cool workplace, more and more people are hearing about Facebook, Innocent Smoothies and Google offices. In the Austin Facebook office they have things like hammocks and free Starbucks and in Innocent Smoothies – they have ping pong. These companies are creating communities at work – it’s a way to keep employees going and gives them something to talk about.

I mean who talks about a company where you’ve got to buy your own milk? It’s little things, but GenYs need more. In my previous job, a london startup, the beautiful thing I saw about having ping pong there was the speed which I could build relationships by using the table. We’d end up playing doubles and got to know each other.

Frequently, on Friday nights, we’d stay back and socialize and play – instead of just hitting up bars, we were having fun for free. Even the security guy, who could hardly speak a lick of english, was inspecting the table and I asked him if he wanted to play and we got to know each other.

Ping pong for me is the one sport that is ideal for agencies – sure there’s foosball and mini putting greens, but ping pong for me is the one. Ping pong makes you use your brain and improves attention spans. Most companies say welcome to the family, and few companies actually back that up. If they do it, it’s radical. I hope that in 20 years people enjoy going to work.

 

You can connect with David on twitter HERE and check out David on his successful (now closed) Kickstarter video below:

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  • http://twitter.com/uberpong Uberpong

    Thanks for the article Filip. It would be good to hear what the Enviable Workplace community thinks of ping pong in the workplace and how it could maybe change the environment we work in. Have you seen any other examples of things in offices that make it a better place for you to work?

  • http://www.cmoe.com/increase-workplace-productivity.htm Frances

    I think it sure can… much like other things that employees can do to take a break from mundane tasks in the workplace

  • http://twitter.com/EnviableWorkplc Enviable Workplace

    Agreed Frances, and thanks for stopping by. Personally, I’ve looked into getting a standing desk so I get off my butt as much as possible. Still have to do the mundane tasks but at least I can do ’em in a slightly more energetic manner. – filip

  • http://twitter.com/EnviableWorkplc Enviable Workplace

    Hey Dave! One user writes, from the reddit conversation: http://www.reddit.com/r/tabletennis/comments/y7pmy/good_reasons_to_put_a_ping_pong_table_in_the/

    “We have a ping pong table at our office just outside the main work center. This last May we had a tournament and half the employees took part. We split our breaks to make the tournament schedule work and then covered for those people who wanted to watch or warm up, sometimes doubling our workload. It was so much fun waiting for an update on who won and who was playing next that the day went by faster than usual. Apparently productivity those two days was better than it was all month because of the teamwork covering the workload coupled with making the workplace fun. Now there’s a pool tournament this month.”

  • Teresa

    We’ve recently moved to new offices where mobile working is encouraged, there are creative rooms with bean-bags (they call them fatboys here in Germany!), sofa’s and yes – foosball. Maybe not as active as ping pong, but I absolutely agree that making these types of activities available in the workplace encourages creativity, collaboration and just plain old having fun. We also have adjustable desks, so like Filip I can do my mundane tasks standing up 🙂

  • http://twitter.com/EnviableWorkplc Enviable Workplace

    Hey Teresa, good to hear from you! You guys have standing desks? Do many people chose to use them or is it more of a novelty? In theory I like the idea but am curious how many people would actually use them. – filip

  • Darren

    It’s great that you play Ping Pong at work! How about entering London’s Ping Pong inter-company tournament #citychallenge oct 2nd – dec 4th
     ow.ly/djfIX 

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  • HD Stone

    Let me see if I have this right. Europe is about to fall apart, America is $17 trillion in debt, and you folks hate your jobs so much that you need to play instead of work? How about this… QUIT. Play ping pong all freakin day. I go to work to work. I like what I do. You gnats are an annoying bunch. You make noise. You goof off. You’re generally incompetent and in the way. I pray for another recession so the boss can’t afford to keep you. Adios.

  • http://enviable.wpengine.com/ Filip Matous

    HD Stone, LOL! Thank you for the best comment I’ve read all week.

    Now, off I go to goof off with my fellow incompetent gnats. Adios! 😉

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  • http://nathanhoad.net/ Nathan Hoad

    I couldn’t agree more! That’s part of the reason I built Athletable – https://athletable.com

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  • Steven

    That’s very sad HD Stone. I go to work to make a living, I don’t go to work to work. The reason I love the company where I work is that it has a great perspective: We work to live; we don’t live to work.

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  • Sean S

    You can’t expect everyone to understand. However for people where where creativity is essential in our positions, this is VERY good.

  • http://enviableworkplace.com/ Filip Matous

    Totally agree Sean. I run a marketing agency during the day and having “play time” is super important for innovating. The worst ideas come from the desk area and the best have come from team play time / away from desk time.

  • sam