This is a question I’ve been asking myself for a while.
I hear it when I talk to friends about the near-constant stresses of their work. The fear of taking time off only to see the mountain of work upon their return. The endless cycle of meetings where conversation tends to focus on the tactical, on the execution, on the pressure to get shit done NOW. If I would ask, “But did you get to actually play today?” they would look at me like I had lobsters crawling out of my ears. And for good reason…we’ve pretty much separated the ideas of work and play in our current economy.
But there’s a reason why I decided to call this site Bailey WorkPlay back in 2006. Because I truly believe we can and must reconnect work and play if our organizations are going to succeed.
Yes, it’s an uphill battle and the latest employee engagement statistics don’t offer much reason for optimism. Not to be a Dougie Downer, but we’re not exactly helping our kids see the connection, either. I witness this every day when my children bring piles of homework from school. Just this past weekend, my 14 year old daughter probably had four or five hours of personal time. The other remaining hours were devoted to projects, studying, and various other work. For her, play has become a luxury she can’t afford.
It’s almost as if our educational system is saying, “Get used to it kids. We’re preparing you for the real world where work is first. Life is just that thing that fills in the odd spaces.”
Why do we believe this is okay? Why have we decided that we need far less time to play, create, and wonder? Why do we regard learning as this intensely serious undertaking instead of the playful possibility it can be? Is this a reason we see so many more instances of depression and anxiety among adults and teens today?
Maybe it’s because as much as we like to believe we value creativity, we really don’t know how to handle it…in our businesses and in our schools.
What will it take for us to make play a vital tool in creating vibrant learning organizations?
Aeon Magazine: The Play Deficit
Photo credit: eurodrifter
I’ve been playing with variations of this idea for the last month. Much has happened to me in 2013. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that much as happened in me in 2013. Far too much for me to describe in a single blog post, but perhaps over time I’ll be able to write more about my journey this past year. However, let me try and take a stab at it.
Though I have shared some things through my social networks at various times, I haven’t written much here in this blog. The very idea of opening myself up to the world through this site was terrifying. I was battling a crippling combination of depression and anxiety that left me wanting to simply get small and hide from the darkness that was both out there and within me. I did my very best to hide this darkness and fear from friends, family, and the world. Sometimes I succeeded. Often times I failed. All along the way, I kept asking, “Why?” Why is everything such a damned struggle? Why am I scared to do the important things I know I need to do? Why can’t I feel a sense of hope anymore? Why does my life seem without purpose?
That’s the terrible thing about depression. In hindsight, I see it clearly but when you’re neck deep in the muck and shit, you don’t see with the same eyes, hear with the same ears, and think with the same mind. It’s a rather horrific and lonely place.
What I needed was a way out, a way to wake up, and God presented me with just such an opportunity. But it wasn’t a nice, soothing wake up call that gently roused me from my slumber. It was the equivalent of a foghorn placed directly at the side of my head. Jarring and painful, but now wide awake to the fact that I was not caring for my mental health. Furthermore, I was definitely not living the Life I was meant to live and doing the Work I was meant to do.
Now, my question focused on, “Okay God, what are You trying to show me?” Different questions can yield different answers.
In the past 30 days, I have gotten the help I needed in the form of therapy and medication. I have discovered I am a part of loving, wonderful, supportive Church community. I have received tremendous comfort and caring among my dear friends and family. I know just how much I love and admire my wife for courageously helping me through it all. I have regained a sense of joy and curiosity that was lost for far too long.
And I’ve also been freed to ask new questions about the direction of my Life and Work. The answers are still a bit murky but clarity is beginning to take place. After all that I’ve been through this year, what I do know is that my Life has value and my Work must have meaningful purpose (more about this soon). I see my course is forward and my very best is yet to come.
I share all of this partly as therapy for myself, but also as words of solace to any of you who are struggling right now with your own demons of depression and anxiety. You are not alone. Your Life has value. Your Work can be a brilliant light in this world. Reach out for the help you need…and don’t give up until you get it.
Be well, my friends.
When I first read the details from Kara Swisher at All Things D, my initial reaction was, “WTF is going on at Yahoo!?” A Silicon Valley-based tech company mandating an end to flexible work arrangements is like spotting a white elk…and then watch it charge you, ready to gore you on its antlers. It doesn’t happen very often and it when it does, it usually ends with a bloody struggle. We’ve entered an age when the old ways of working are no longer valid, where productivity and effectiveness are not measured by whether you’re sitting at your assigned desk, in your building.
Which is why there is a very real possibility this isn’t at all about flexible work arrangements at all. It’s about a most pernicious form of a corporate lie. This is a layoff in disguise. By forcing remote employees to return to the office – it’s worth noting that many remote workers will have to uproot and move to make this happen – Yahoo! is effectively telling their folks to either love it or leave it. I hope I’m wrong about this, but I can’t help having a nagging suspicion that something very dodgy is happening here that will do nothing but ratchet up skepticism and cynicism among their employees. Maybe there’s open and honest dialogue taking place within Yahoo! that’s more truthful as to the real objective behind this new HR policy. I hope so, but judging by the employee anger reported by Swisher, I’m betting against it. How can there not be a sense of broken trust between management and employees? And even if you’re not a remote worker, wouldn’t you question what else is coming that will impact you? Matt Mullenweg of Automattic won’t be the only one trying to poach smart talent from this mess…and I’d say he’ll get quite a few resumes this week.
And yet, it gets more interesting when we read the original internal email from Executive Vice President of People and Development, Jackie Reses, announcing the policy. Never mind that it’s marked as “YAHOO! PROPRIETARY AND CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION — DO NOT FORWARD”. It was forwarded to Swisher and she shares it at the bottom of her follow-up post.
What really fascinates me is the second paragraph of the email:
To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.
Note the implications. That collaboration and communication only happens when sharing the same physical space. That working outside of the office space leads to less-than-optimal performance. That “speed” and “quality” can only be managed when the boss is sitting down the hall. That Yahoo!’s employees don’t know how the hell to work independently, achieve objectives without constant management oversight, and share ideas using technologies like the phone, IM, web-conferencing, and the like. To which, I call bullshit. That’s lazy, backward, and potentially business-suicidal thinking. And that’s not an employee problem. It’s a management problem that will further sink the company, no matter how many times they try to redesign their home page.
So, which is it? Is Yahoo! just trying to surreptitiously lay off a portion of its workforce? Or admitting it doesn’t have a clue about how people can work together to solve real business problems in 2013? Or is Yahoo! just rotting from the head down?
Photo credit: Thomas Hawk