Play games at work

October 21, 2005

Create some fun every week. Your staff enjoy it and so will you.

Do you want to have a good time while practicing medicine and increasing staff morale? And do it inexpensively? If the answer is Yes, let me introduce the weekly contest, which I've been running at my practice for two years.

Our office employs six full-time and two part-time workers; all are eligible to participate. I'm the contest master of ceremonies (MC). Each Thursday, I choose from one of several different games. I attach a note to the door so the staff can see it as they come in. The note indicates the format (which I choose) for the day's contest and what the prize will be.

Prizes vary from $5 to $15. If more than one employee gets the right answer, the winners share the prize. If there's no winner, but someone is close to the correct answer, that person might get a few dollars. "I'd be disappointed if there wasn't a contest every Thursday," says Kedra Bowie, certified nursing assistant.

Here are some of our more popular contests:

For Your Eyes Only: Don't Touch, Don't Shake Like a Polaroid Picture. On contest day, a plastic jar is loaded with coins (dutifully counted by the MC) and then tightly sealed with Band-Aids. Estimating by sight only, each participant writes down a guess for the number of coins. The closest guesstimate to the actual amount wins. For variety, we sometimes put things other than coins in the jar-leaves, sugar packets, pieces of paper. The possibilities are endless. (The number of grains of sand was considered, but never implemented. Guaranteeing accuracy was too tedious. When you're the contest MC, it's good to know your limits.)

Pick a Number. Each worker guesses a number between 1 and 100 or 200 and writes it down. The answer that comes closest to the one I've arbitrarily picked beforehand, wins. In this version of the contest, if a staffer gets the number "on the nose," she'll win $15. If not, the person whose guess is closest wins $5. And if an employee doesn't have the winning answer or the closest answer, she might still win a dollar if the guess is within 10 numbers. If it's within six numbers, she'll win $3 or, if it's within two numbers, it'll be $5.

The Cap Trick. This is an easy contest to set up and play even when the office is busy. The numerals 1 to 8 (the total number of our staff members) are written twice on pieces of paper and each group of eight is dropped into a separate baseball cap. After each staffer has drawn a number from the blue cap, one number is pulled from the brown cap. The employee with the matching number wins.

Questions in Pursuit of Answers and Guesses. This is the most popular contest and there are two versions. In the first, the MC asks four questions related to one theme. Here's a typical set of questions that would be used in Version 1: "What's a fin?" It's what a fish uses to swim, but in today's contest the correct answer is a slang term for a $5 bill. "How many fins does a fish have?" Typically, five. "What's a Mickey Finn?" One worker guesses that it's what Mickey Mouse uses to swim in the pool. Wrong, it's an adulterated drink. "Where do Finns live?" Following the flow, many staffers wrote "the water," but kudos only went to those answering Finland. Whoever gets the most answers right, wins.