Workplace gaming could benefit firms

Dutch research finds that letting staff playing solitaire at their desk could improve their productivity and improve morale

Many companies take a dim view of members of staff who play computer games at their desk, but new research suggests the practice should actually be encouraged.

Rather than simply eating up time that would be better spent working, these games can boost productivity and morale, according to a study by Dutch scientists.

BBC Online reported on Friday that scientists at the University of Utrecht has found that playing computer game at work can improve an employee's job satisfaction and cut absenteeism. Researchers took a number of employees from a Dutch insurance firm, allowing one group of them to play computer games -- such as minesweeper and solitaire -- for up to one hour a day, while restricting the others.

After a month, the employees were tested, and those who had been permitted to play games at their desk were found to be happier about their workload and performance.

Professor Jeffrey Goldstein, who led the research, told BBC Online that games such as solitaire could help people to work better by giving their brain a rest from complex work-related tasks.

The University of Utrecht scientists now hope to repeat the study using more complicated computer games, such as strategy or combat simulations.