7 Happy Benefits To Playing More At Work!

Recess-Play at work

PLAYING, is it still a part of your life? Your work?

Remember the good ole days – back when you were in elementary school? What your favorite subject? Whether it was math, reading, science, or something else, I bet you eagerly looked forward to recess!

As a kid, recess was a chance to mingle with friends and play! The fact that it provided a much-needed break from the rigors of academic subjects, a chance to be active, and an opportunity to learn how to manage unstructured time were probably not even considerations. Neither were the skills you were learning, like resolving conflict, sharing, leading, collaborating, and negotiating.

You just enjoyed recess – it was fun! You probably didn’t even notice that your ability to focus and stay on task improved afterwards. Or that your memory was better. Did you know that experts say recess also helps children behave better? So best of all – you probably got into a lot less trouble after recess!

With the emphasis on teaching to improve test scores after No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001, the number of minutes allotted for recess has been shrinking in elementary schools, with more time devoted to teaching. Some feel playing kickball is a waste of time when many children are failing math or struggling to read.

Unfortunately, fewer breaks for children and the added stress of all the tests doesn’t create an ideal learning environment.

Today’s work environment has also undergone some changes with the addition of e-mail, texting, video conferencing, working from home, etc. making it more difficult to escape work. Without deliberate effort, work easily crowds out essential activities like relaxing, being creative, exercising, and spending time with friends and family. And it leaves very little time for processing the overwhelming amount of information coming at you.

You know what they say: “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

I actually enjoy working. I like the challenge, the opportunity to be productive, and the ability to make a difference in the lives of others. However, unless I’m intentional, work easily consumes me. Sadly, that only makes me dull like a child deprived of recess!

Sending A Message

When God is trying to show me something, it keeps popping up.  A few years back, the idea of play and being more child-like repeatedly came to my attention. First it showed up while reading Jesus Calling by Sarah Young:

“When you walk through a day with childlike delight, savoring every blessing, you proclaim your Trust in Me, your ever-present Shepherd.”

Then it came up again in a book called Approaching God by Steve Brown:

You can know that your prayer life is grown when it has the flavor of child-likeness. Jesus looked at His disciples – their knowing sophistication, their need for acceptance, their concern with power and control, their measured words, and their adult ways.

Then Jesus looked at the children with their dirty faces, their clumsy walks, and their broken toys in their hands, and He said: “Let them come.”

He still says that.

As if those two messages weren’t enough, when I tuned into the Today Show, there was a segment running that was asking the question “Does the workplace need more play time?” Literally, recess at work!

Message received!

I tend to be a serious person. Don’t misunderstand me – I like to have fun, be silly, and play. In fact, that was what I adored most about teaching preschoolers at church for some 20 years. They brought out my inner child. Yet, I can also be very focused and intense.

Just like taking breaks and playing has benefits for children, there are happy benefits for adults engaging in “recess” too. Here are just a few reasons to make sure you are intentionally taking breaks – because PLAY…

1. Inspires Your Inner Child

Being curious, exploring, and soaking in the wonder of life is energizing! It invites you to view life from a different perspective. When you connect with your inner child, you are less inhibited and more able to be your authentic self. There’s space to imagine and dream. Not to mention playing is just plain delightful!

The real benefit to awakening your inner child: it allows you to be more innovative, creative, and focused when you resume working again.

2. Reduces Stress

Let’s be honest. Work is often stressful. Deadlines, quotas, problems, conflict, and more all add up to stress! While a little stress is good, a lot of stress wreaks havoc on you physically, emotionally, and mentally. Rather than resort to drugs, repeated doctor visits, or suffering, why not be preventative and incorporate more play in your day!

3. Slows You Down

You just don’t see children rushing a pretend scenario or hurrying to assemble a Lego creation. Rather, they are present and fully engaged in what they are doing.

On the other hand, speeding through life is something adults do, and it’s costly!

Taking time to play, whatever that is for you, is time where you are fully present and engrossed in what you are doing. Reading, hiking, cooking, creating, puzzling, time with friends – are just a few “play” activities for me. What’s play for you might be different. And how you play at work might be different too, but taking time to pause, slow down, and step away from work is beneficial!

4. Encourages Processing

If you watch children as they play, they are frequently acting out what they are experiencing in real life.

As an adult, you may not process by “role playing” in the same way that children do, but play does allow you space to process the barrage of information coming your way. I know that’s precisely what I appreciate about many of my favorite ways to play! It’s easy to sort through your thoughts in back burner mode or to let your mind wander while you are hiking or puzzling or whatever you enjoy doing. A quick walk or a few minutes spent doodling at work does the same thing. Then when you return to work focusing is easier.

5. Enhances Your Mood

Playing is engaging in activities that you enjoy; activities that give your mood a happy boost! Work isn’t all sunshine and roses. Sometimes it’s discouraging and tiring. Sometimes it’s exhilarating and tiring. Either way, taking a break to play helps you return to work in a better mood.

I know for me those happy breaks make me resent work less and feel more balanced.

6. Increases Your Productivity

There’s no denying that play breaks do take time away from work, just like recess takes time away from learning.  But, it also increases productivity (and creativity too!) when you get back to work, like recess increases concentration and learning. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works! I dare you to give it a try!

7. Energizes & Bonds Your Team!

Those that play together, stay together, and that’s especially true when it comes to teams. As leaders, it’s crucial to make time to play together because it energizes and bonds your team. Not only does play allows people to see each other in new ways, it also provides time for team members to interact in fun and less serious situations. Play times facilitate better relationships between team members allowing them to work together more effectively.

Whether you lead yourself, or you lead a team, making time to play is a worthwhile investment. Perhaps the saying should be “Hard work and a little play makes Jack (or Jill) shine!”

Inspired to experiment with play at work?  Then start stepping away from your desk and do something fun for a few minutes. Resist the urge to eat at your desk while working. Brainstorm what play would look like in your specific situation – get creative!

If you are a leader, I challenge you incorporate more “recess” and play, into your work culture. Consider kicking off your meetings with a fun activity, celebrating accomplishments, birthdays, and maybe even Mondays! Encourage your people to take breaks, lunches, and vacations. Plan periodic training/bonding days. It will pay off in spades in the long run with a vastly more positive culture!

How will you incorporate more playing in your life and work?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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