Heartwork: The game
Let’s Talk About Work, Baby!

Enabling Everyone To Flourish In The Workplace


He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

Imagine if everyone felt encouraged to bring their whole hearts to work (whatever that means to them)!

  • 53% of people in Aotearoa are not feeling awesome*

  • 668 suicides in the 2017/18 year

We want to help create a more human, empathetic and inclusive workplace culture within New Zealand organisations.


Mental health Awareness Week 2018

Heartwork invited bold leaders who care deeply about people to prototype this new way of working with games that start conversations where everybody wins.

Engaging Hearts

Around 70 leaders joined us from all across the public sector and corporate world — The Treasury, ACC, Ministry for Women, Kiwibank, Xero, and our speakers Chlöe Swarbrick MP, Julian Smith from the leadership team at Meridian (also our major sponsor), and Mary O’Hagan — former Mental Health commissioner.

To help leaders and staff engage their hearts at work together and create empathy with customers and colleagues on an ongoing basis, we’ve taken everything from that leaders workshop and turned it into a simple and beautiful card game with Paula Airth - a Design Professor at Western Washington University - and Te Reo Maori translation support by Sharn Maree, resulting in this Heartwork game.

Let’s Talk About Work, Baby!

In this initial release we’re including a whole range of games to add to your toolbox:

  1. Warm-Up

    Our Needs: How are you? What qualities would you like to step into?

  2. The Retro

    Learning from experiences and discovering adaptive next actions

  3. In-Meeting Intention Game

    Ensure an energising and purposeful meeting.

  4. Personal Intention Game

    Mentally prepare yourself.

In addition, this card game can be used in conflict - both individually to understand what you need to engage constructively, and together as a helpful structure to understand each others needs and find win:win actions.

We want to live in a world where people are encouraged to bring their whole hearts to work – whatever ‘work’ means to them. We reckon there is a taonga (treasure) in every situation, even challenging ones – an opportunity to learn and grow. We reckon play, learning and authentic self-expression at work (or school, or home, or wherever!) allows humans to have more meaningful, energetic and productive lives.


A Powerful Tool

The Heartwork Game is a powerful tool that leaders and staff to help build engagement where staff can thrive and do their best work.

These approaches rarely go on to create lasting change and can actually reduce engagement.

The Heartwork Game is a beautiful and simple tool to help leaders and their teams to have face-to-face conversations about their psychological needs and how they can meet them to flourish at work. These conversations develop greater understanding, empathy and human connection. The outcome is you build psychological safety and trust and discover actions that are truly sustainable and win-win. This is core to the way you increase long-term engagement.

And we know that in teams with high safety and trust, there is more room for the kind of creativity and collaboration required to solve hefty system challenges, and to meet the public’s growing expectations of government.

We see the value of cultural diversity, the wisdom of Te Ao Maori and the importance of nurturing Te Reo Maori as a beautiful and essential element of the culture and wisdom of the first people of Aotearoa. The game draws human psychological needs from the Te Whare Tapa Wha & Te Wheke models and Dr Marshall Rosenberg's Research, and the feelings are all translated into Te Reo Maori, to give staff valuable everyday Maori vocabulary to use and play the game with.


safety & trust

In teams with high safety and trust, there is more room for the kind of creativity and collaboration required to solve hefty system challenges.

Why the game works so well

Playing the Heartwork Game Meets Human Psychological Needs:

Whatumanawa - the healthy expression of feelings - is a key element of wellbeing in the Te Wheke model. Let’s Talk Baby puts people’s feelings back into their hands (literally), enabling them to acknowledge and express their feelings to each other while taking 100% ownership of them in an empowering way that develops self-leadership.

Connection - The game catalyses sharing stories that touch human feelings and psychological needs highlights shared human experiences that can dissolve isolation.

Authenticity - making a space for people to say what is true for them enables them to feel authentic to themselves.

Self-knowledge & Integrity - this game creates a space for people to understand their experiences and supports them to take the actions they need to take to stay in or return to integrity. Learning the language of our human feelings and needs through playing Let’s Talk Baby enables people to articulate their feelings and needs to themselves and others throughout their lives, rather than shutting down, exiting or blaming others.

Understanding - Playing this game across your organisation will create a shared language to enable easeful, clear and kind communication.

Touch - the game is physically stimulating as it involves sorting through cards with your hands, holding, placing, moving and pointing to cards. The touch and movement is calming and helps prevent people from getting into unhelpful thought cycles.

Being heard & acknowledgement - The cards are prompts for important stories. The need for being heard is met when the stories and key points are reflected back by the listener - the storyteller knows they have been understood and acknowledged. Hearing their story and key points reflected back, often from a slightly different perspective also often leads the storyteller to deeper understanding of their own experiences. The cards provide helpful prompts for the listener to recall and reflect back what they have heard, making this reflecting an easeful process.

In addition to meeting these needs, the conversations and understanding that the game creates are rich, meaningful and often humorous, which makes the games attractive to keep playing.