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What role can puzzles play in employee communication? Work experience placement Jorun Bork has it all figured out…

In the last ten years, there’s been a 40% increase in mental health problems in the UK[1] – and it’s a subject being talked about more and more in the workplace.

Before then, negative emotions were things companies preferred to keep in their proverbial closets. Now employers aren’t afraid to put up posters about counselling hotlines, the therapeutic benefits of lunch-time walks and the life-enhancing power of mindfulness.

During my placement at 44 Communications, I’ve learned how different organisations communicate to their employees in different ways, ranging from digital e-zines and creative experiential campaigns to tabloid-style newspapers and glossy, newsstand style magazines.

One thing common to all of them though was the use of puzzles and similar fun, creative activities to help readers relax and ‘take a break’. Their popularity made me wonder whether this kind of communication has a lot more potential than at first seems.

Business with pleasure

Adult puzzles are popular these days, with many retailers selling Zen-style colouring books for grown-ups designed to calm the mind and sooth the spirit after a busy day.

These books look exactly like the ones you may remember from your childhood – well, minus the Disney princesses and Donald Duck.

But what if businesses started to bring such techniques into the mainstream of their employee communication? It may sound radical at first, but what advantages could be gained by communicating important information through puzzles and the like?

Clearly better?

On the surface, puzzles may seem like a less direct and more long-winded way of communicating. But they do have the capacity to engage readers in a different way.

Conventional pages with just text and pictures may seem clearer and more comprehensive, but they don’t work the parts of the brain that puzzles do.

Many far-sighted employers are already using the concept of gamification to engage colleagues, capitalising on the idea that such activity stimulates users’ imaginations in fresh, exciting ways.

It also helps them retain information in a world where we’re constantly bombarded by direct, instantaneous and attention-grabbing messages. Plus, puzzles both increase IQ and problem-solving skills,[2] which perhaps explains why 87% of workers in a recent study said that gamification has made them more productive.

So with mental health becoming more openly discussed in the workplace, and organisations looking to improve the wellbeing of employees, maybe there’s a lot to be said for loosening up and embracing our playful sides.


[1] https://www.localgov.co.uk/Mental-health-detentions-rise-by-40-in-last-10-years/44596

[2] http://classifieds.usatoday.com/uncategorized/the-surprising-benefits-of-puzzle-solving-for-adults/

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