The Puritans founded the United States, and by God, they’re still here.
Work is serious, productive and good; play is frivolous, wasteful, and selfish. Work is for adults; play is for children. The two must be firmly separated, with work accomplished in full before allowing a minuscule amount of play.
Foolish, because no one outgrows the capacity for play. It’s a given, an innate human drive—you can’t train, cajole, or beat it out of people. Far more sensible, then, to understand it in a more modern context: interwoven with work, rather than relegated to furtive, snatched moments.
Recreation, through amusement and enjoyment, fosters relaxation. By doing so, it lifts mood and boosts productivity. A brief equivalent of ‘sleeping on it’, a few moments’ play provides a quick reset for anyone hung up on a problem or decision.
In the corporate world, play breaks make possible more intense, more creative work, and more of it. Further, allowing workers their choice of recreation encourages collaboration far better than enforced jollification, team sports, or similar official “team building” nonsense. Thanks to the internet, smart phones, and social networking, there have never been so many opportunities for play, or in so many different ways.
My own preferred play therapy is the free Words With Friends app, played on my iPhone, with a small group of regular opponents—mostly fanatics like myself. Some like several games at the same time, played with speedy abandon; others like to take their time deliberating over the best move. Occasionally, acquaintances from the Twitter social network will try their luck at a game or two, though they usually don’t stay around too long. It makes no difference to me, I’ll take on all comers.
At work, at home—wherever, we play to win. We play to enjoy each other’s skills, to pit our tactical skills against our opponents’, to take a break from the present. Catching our breath, as it were, sharpens us for the work at hand, rather than detracting from our attention to it. My opponents’ witty observations or wry comments on word choices and game progress put humor in my day for which I don’t have a face-time equivalent. The best part of the fun isn’t winning the game, it’s the commentary going on behind it.
Interestingly enough, play provides benefits to inter-personal relationships just as it does in the workplace—the give-and-take of playing with others is excellent practice with social skills. Improve social skills, and you improve communication; better communication makes better relationships. What began as playing a word game with near-strangers has slowly evolved into an ongoing conversation with friends I would otherwise never have gotten to know.
The game we’re playing gives a fascinating look at how another person’s mind works, too. Is he a straight-forward grid-builder, or does he go in for sophisticated interlocking moves? Does he play a lot of ordinary words, or into the more esoteric?
Several of my favorite opponents are masters of the arcane. They’ve used words on me I never knew existed, sending me scurrying over to Dictionary.com for enlightenment. Seriously, “qursh”? Who knew?
Play’s not just for fun—it’s the glue that holds the human race together!
Hey, @OhDaddy—it’s your move.