and even purposeless. However, more companies are coming to recognise not only the benefits of play to the health and well being of their employees, but to the bottom line.
Many dot-com companies are ahead of the learning curve on this one, embracing the benefits of play as a productivity boost. Many offer free art or yoga classes during the day, provide games like ping-pong or Foosball, or even encouraging recess-like breaks.
Research has demonstrated repeatedly the benefits of play for relieving stress, boosting creativity, and improving overall brain functioning. Play is fun and can serve to release endorphins which are the body's natural feel-good chemicals, serving to promote an overall sense of well-being.
The fact that most organizations cultivate an environment where play is seen as counter-productive and 'breaks' are viewed as time-wasters helps to explain the lack of energy, focus and interest expressed and experienced by many employees. If these are the over-riding feelings of your employees each day, what does this say to the quality of work they likely are producing?
Stuart Brown is a psychiatrist that has studied Play and its purpose and importance in our lives. He is the founder of the National Institute of Play in Carmel and the author of Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. He studied the play histories of 6,000 people ranging from Nobel prize winners to Texas murderers and found that the two main distinguishers between the two were abusive childhoods and a lack of play.
As our economy begins to shape our work environments further, forcing us to work harder in offices with fewer staff to accomplish a growing work pile, we are left with even less time to ourselves and definitely less we feel we can devote to play. However as Dr. Brown points out...
Play is particularly important during periods that we are sustainedly stressful.In order to become more play-full, Brown recommends getting back in touch with your inner child and how you played as that child. What activities engaged you most, brought you the most joy? He has identified 8 Play Personalities that help to shape the type of play activities you might enjoy most...
- Joking - A little improv? A little stand-up? Clown school? There is a reason people gravitate to laughter clinics.
- Moving - This could include athletic activities but really involves anyone who enjoys moving whether dancing, swimming or even walking
- Exploring - Brown says that this could be physical but it could be emotional as well, with a search into deepening your understanding of music, movement or...
- Competing - This is for all of you that love to play games and keep score. Your stack of games on the shelf is likely testament to your engagement with this one already!
- Directing - These are the planners of the world - those that enjoy planning parties or vacations.
- Collecting - Anything is fair game here, referring to people's joy in collecting things whether comic books, shoes, tea pots or model trains.
- Storytelling - This could refer to those who actually physically enjoy writing stories to share, but could simply be those that like documenting aspects of their life in video, blogging about an interest or mocking up cooking shows in their kitchen.
- Creating Art - Whether you draw or paint, sculpt, redecorate, rebuild engines or wood work... it's the creation aspect that appeals to you.
Most professional athletes recognise the importance of down time to their success. They can't possibly sustain a high level of performance on 'game day' without giving their muscles and minds a break in between. Those of us with 9 to 5 jobs need to sustain our performance 5 days a week with only 2-3 weeks a year to recover. This is not sufficient and goes a long way to explaining why we struggle to keep up and stay motivated.
Instead, introduce a little play into your life. Build in time to relax, have fun and de-stress. Your mind will be that much clearer when you re-engage on the work tasks before you. A clear and focused mind can accomplish more in less time than a tired, distracted one ever could. You just might find that a recess-break becomes your best productivity and success tip!
For those looking for some simple and discrete ways to introduce small little fun-sized breaks into their work schedule, consider some of the following as a way to de-stress while on-the-job!