Should we allow nerf guns in the workplace?

I work at an engineering-lead organization. Most of the engineers have nerf guns and this leads to impromptu nerf gun wars in the office.

Most people find this pretty good-natured, but I worry that it’s distracting. Plus it might be something that won’t work as we grow as a company.

What do people think? Should we ban this or not? And if we do, how do we best go about it?

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Worth also considering your neighbor if you have one. I used to hate the noise and behavior of our neighbors with nerf guns - they would often be shouting in the background whilst I was trying to customer calls…

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For me you really need to answer the question of how “taking a break” is perceived in your organisation? Is it “I wish I had time to waste”? Or it is “we are all in this together and we know what we need to get done and by when”?

If it is the later, then nerf guns (or table tennis, or an xbox, etc) can be a welcome way to play - just be careful of those who aren’t ready to join in :slight_smile:

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I think office design can play a big part here, if ‘play’ is an important part of your culture, then ideally you have a ‘play space’ where those who are interested can participate, away from others who need a quiet space.

Another part of the nerf gun activity for me is about asking if it’s inclusive. Ideally a company can provide fun activities that appeal to a variety of people, based on input from them. Maybe there are other activities that are less disruptive to others, such as a dart board, board games, nerf basketball hoop, jigsaw puzzles, arcade game, etc.

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As a survivor of many a nerf battle I’m all for it. My whole team had guns (about 20 of us) and there were many the impromptu wars, however the key for us was being aware of the people within our surrounding - if anyone looked particularly busy or stressed we wouldn’t launch a battle. Also the phones were also always first priority mid-battle. We were having fun, but there was still a job to be done.
The other key was it needed to be inclusive. Originally only the guys in our team had guns until I bought one in for myself in December. After this we had Secret Santa for Christmas and everyone who didn’t already have a gun received one so it was very inclusive.

So long as the people in your team are respected, and everyone can feel included, have at it!

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Hi @jon,
We have nerf guns here in the office and I find it is a great way for the team to take a break (even if it does mean nerf wars). In the recent weeks, the nerf guns have actually been put aside, willingly, and now the team are just throwing the bullets! :woman_shrugging:
I think it is important to keep the fun in the company if this is what your company culture is all about.
If you do decide to ban them, think about replacing them with something else.

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I’m leaning towards @karinarook’s response in that, make sure all of your play activities are inclusive. I don’t feel that nerf guns are explicitly exclusive, but I wouldn’t put them into a “completely inclusive” category either. Puzzles, board games, etc strike me as a better option; I can imagine some folks might not want to be as competitive or physical when it comes to play.

This is a spicy meatball! I used to work for a company where a lot of us had nerf guns and it definitely helped build teamwork and creative expression time into our day which was appropriate for the work we did. But, as people have mentioned inclusivity, I want to specifically offer that for some folks, gun play, even with the best intentions can be triggering depending on their life stories. I know that containing it might seem like it’s taking the fun out of sneak attacks, but could there be a way to physically contain it for the folks that don’t want to engage or be exposed to the activity?

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“This is a spicy meatball” :joy:

I’m with you in terms of the inclusivity / gun play / triggering aspect, especially in the United States. I think there are other ways we can get people up and about (while not having a stab or criticising the workplaces that currently do it!).