What Happened to Recess?

Question: Why is it that so many work environments are staid and boring? No one seems to want to have any fun.

Answer: I remember how recess was a much anticipated event in my elementary school years. We’d keep our nose to the grindstone with reading, writing and ‘rithmetic, and then the teacher would announce that it was time for recess. The clouds would part, the sun would shine, the birds would chirp and the angels in heaven would sing the sweetest songs ever heard. We would stream outside for 15 or 20 minutes of pure bliss. As we grew older we bought into the notion that a play break was only for kids.

Part of the problem is that many people see work as work and play as play. For some reason they believe that there can’t be an intersection between the two. As entrepreneurs we can be pretty intense at times, so lightening things up a bit is very much in order. Many of us learned that we should always be prim and proper – if we let our hair down at all, we’d be viewed as immature and it could hurt our chances to advance in the world. Fortunately there are some companies and organizations that are discarding these old mores. Hopefully this trend will continue.

Having fun while we work makes us more productive and more effective. It also allows us to build relationships and helps us to avoid burnout. So how can we infuse the concept of recess back into our daily lives? We can start by giving ourselves permission to have fun, and to discard some of the old tapes that are playing in our heads that tell us we should not play at work. Then we find things to do during the day that bring joy and laughter to others. For a number of years during the heat of the summer, I donned an ice cream cone costume and pushed an ice cream cart around the office. I dispensed ice cream bars to our associates and elicited a lot of smiles in the process. It was fun for them and I had a blast.

One company that seems to weave the recess mentality throughout each day is Southwest Airlines. The employees are given license to have fun. Flight attendants sing and dance and the pilots provide witty commentary throughout the flight. I’ve spoken with many, many Southwest employees over the years, and every one of them provided testimony as to how much fun they have serving their customers every day.

Life is too short not to be happy and smile all the time. There’s no reason to turn off our joy when we are working. When we have fun and include others in the process everyone benefits. And the simple and beloved concept of recess lives on.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.


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