Why is there a war being fought against play?
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.
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. And 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 daughter probably had four or five hours of personal time. The other remaining hours were devoted to projects, studying, and various other work. She, and so many other children, are suffering a deficit of play.
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.