It is certainly a good idea to provide outlets for employee stress relief in the current economic climate. Employers can offer formal stress reduction programs or do simple things like enforcing breaks, buying inexpensive snacks and lunch and launching low-cost wellness initiatives. There are always employees who like to get out for a smoke and those that stay at their desk at lunch to catch up on their shopping.
How about encouraging a few minutes of online game playing to create a brief escape? It sounds like a great idea particularly for employees who are frequent game players. Before you publicize online game competitions in the workplace think carefully about what you are encouraging. There are thousands of multi-user online games to choose from. They can be broken down into categories as innocuous as people, such as the popular Sims role-playing community, to games that involve sports and even managers. The online community also includes games in categories like first person shooter and virtual sex.
If games with racially or sexually charged content are allowed they could be evidence that supports a claim of discrimination based on a hostile work environment. Even game themes are not potentially discriminatory do you really want an employee relaxing at their desk by participating in a war simulation? That’s a lot different than letting off steam with a good run or strenuous workout, even kick-boxing. Who are the fictitious enemies on the computer monitor?
IT departments, including those full of gamers, would not be happy about widespread game playing in the workplace. The technical reasons are beyond my knowledge but I do know that computer use for non-business reasons can cause network problems and system snafus.
Employers who are really wedded to the concept could avoid some of these issues by setting up dedicated computers for playing games. But do you really want to police time on a computer, content and the users? Rent or buy an old Pac Man or pinball machine for a break area, it will make more sense and be a lot easier to monitor.
Sorry if playing an online game at work sounds like perfect great stress relief. Save online gaming for home. Break out the Frisbees at work or pull out those hand held stress balls.