Many of us have heard the term “work hard, play hard” but where did it come from and what does it really mean? This phrase is often a premise for, ” FYI you will work your butt off but don’t worry we will take you to happy hour every other week”. Scientist Jessica de Bloom observed that the effects of a vacation wear off in just two to four weeks in a group of 96 Dutch workers that were surveyed. Is it possible that we need to work less and play harder to really be at the peak of effectiveness?
The American (over) work ethic was embedded into our society by our early puritan forefathers and has been reinforced by the concoction of the “American Dream”. Science is currently telling a very different story and organizations are now trying to reconstruct the foundations of corporate culture.
Idleness is not just a vacation, an indulgence or a vice; it is as indispensable to the brain as vitamin D is to the body, and deprived of it we suffer a mental affliction as disfiguring as rickets. – Ferris Jabr, Scientific American, 2013
The average person will spend approximately 90,000 hours working in their lifetime and research shows that 80% of people in the workforce are dissatisfied with their job. Overall it seems that Americans are working longer and harder than anyone else.
More than the English, more than the French, way more than the Germans or Norwegians. Even, recently, more than the Japanese and Americans take less vacation, work longer days, and retire later, too. – Dean Schabner, ABC News, 2016
My personal struggle to maintain work life balance has become more important to me as my knowledge of play grows. It is an active struggle that requires a vigilant assessment of my current state and needs consistently. It has been ingrained in me that long hours and hard work is what advances you and this was what guided me at the beginning of my career. Over the years, I have begun to see life for more than what money can buy, redefined my definition of success and have developed a passion for change.
I have observed that many people’s lives are in shambles, our priorities are often skewed and there are few people willing to champion a cause. Part of this is due to who we are required to be from nine to five in order to thrive. Much of our corporate culture requires us to keep our heads down in servitude and is counter productive to who we should be as people and engaged citizens. This mentality is hurting our society and is pumping out a generation that is apathetic and disengaged.
The United States obsession with work is eating away at the quality of American lives and workaholism is named as a key contributing factor in divorce rates and stress related illnesses. The problem is that many organizations today focus on results but lack the infrastructure that supports human development. Change is on the horizon as scientific research has proven the positive impact of play.
As I learn more about play, I am beginning to think about why and how I would integrate play into an organization. Changes in technology have advocated for a scientific perspective of human performance; from health and wellness to creating mindful and innovative spaces for people to work. The tech industry somehow has caught wind of the power of play and is taking the lead in transforming corporate culture. Fortune has named Google as the number one company to work for the seventh time in ten years. In an interview with Fox News, Stuart Brown invited his audience to think of play as a state of being and also noted that play is different for everyone.
Google has been insightful because they have a whole spectrum of play opportunities so employees can find the niche that works for them. – Stuart Brown, National Institute of Play, Fox News, 2012
Play is not necessarily playing a game or doing a specific type of activity. Play is about finding ways to break away from tasks in order to unleash something more. Play is doing something that may not have a specific goal or rationale and is different for everyone. “If you’re engaged in it deeply, that’s play,” (Stuart Brown, Fox News, 2012). Creating a playful culture can be as small as starting every meeting with an ice breaker or even a quote of the day.
Begin to have a sense of richness from your own internal thought process, Stuart Brown said. Take mini- breaks, and think back to a time when you were more carefree, even to childhood; and visualize yourself doing something that was completely enjoyable. You may realize that something is missing from your life and re-introduce it. If you loved competitive sports, maybe you’d join a tennis league. If you loved photography, maybe you can bring your camera to work and take creative breaks. – Stuart Brown, National Institute of Play, Fox News, 2012
Check Out 2016’s Best Companies to Work For. (2016). Retrieved June 26, 2016, from http://fortune.com/best-companies/
Jabr, F. (2013, October 15). Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/mental-downtime/
Shabner, D. (2016, May 01). Americans Work More Than Anyone. Retrieved June 26, 2016, from http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=93364
Shontell, A. (2011, February 24). 15 Seriously Disturbing Facts About Your Job. Retrieved June 26, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com/disturbing-facts-about-your-job-2011-2?op=1
Work hard, play harder: Fun at work boosts creativity, productivity | Fox News. (2012, September 15). Retrieved June 26, 2016, from http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/09/13/ work-hard-play-harder-fun-at-work-boosts-creativity-productivity.html