25 Jul

I met someone called Lawrence last week – he came to pick up Ian’s old wheelchair to use it for some robot project Emma is doing, which we had a brief chat about. One thing he said in passing really stuck with me though, and I’ve been formulating this blog post in my head ever since.

Lawrence said he did a workshop with some adults, and in order for them to get involved, he had to sort of cover up the fact that they were playing. They didn’t want to engage in an activity which wasn’t productive, so he didn’t refer to it as playful, even though it was.

It reminded me of how children are treated, and how in order to get them to do anything we usually cover up the learning factor, and present it as playing – in order to get children to read, we have books with pictures, we learn songs with counting aspects to learn to count.

But where does the switch come? When does it happen that we no longer want to play, but we want to be productive? Does that ever happen, or are we forced into it?

At school, playtime is built into school hours, not just to give children a break from working, but also because it’s important for children to socialise – I often hear friends with young children saying they’re sending them to nursery for this very reason. Children need to build friendships in order to become social creatures, and in doing so they become better prepared for life as an adult.

Another friend told me how she was berated at work for ‘chatting when she should be working’ – the fact she works in social media, and was talking to a client was seemingly ignored by her boss, who presumably thought she was having too much fun (you’ll be glad to know she’s left that job now). Building a relationship with clients by being friendly and engaging is exactly what playtime at school was preparing her for, and yet it wasn’t being valued by her boss.

When I worked in an office as a temp, the health and safety notes told me to take ten minutes away from my desk every hour – it didn’t say what to do, but colleagues would often used the time to have a smoke break or go to the toilet. I didn’t smoke at the time, so I’d usually wander outside and sit somewhere writing or drawing. This didn’t really go down very well, but I never understood why. The smokers weren’t told not to smoke, and as long as I got the work done, did it matter if I doodled for ten minutes?

Children have playtime scheduled into their working day, and it’s seen as a vital part of their development, but once you get a job, it’s frivolous to play, almost as if adults don’t develop beyond the age of 18. However, we continually develop, and we should be allowed to do so, otherwise we stagnate.

I firmly believe that having a creative break away from work will make employees more productive in the long run, because they will be allowed to develop and grow, as well as being happier in their working hours. I understand that some jobs mean it’s difficult to have a ten minute break at all, let alone once an hour, but it doesn’t mean you should just work through whatever break you manage to get.

There is a tendency to think, ‘it’s only ten minutes, what can I do in that time?’ – well, I’m going to give you some ideas. In the next few weeks, I’m going to time myself doing creative things, and see what it’s possible to do in ten minutes. If it persuades just one person does something creative in their tea break instead of reading Grazia*, then it’s worth it.

* other brain rotting** magazines are available
** the opinions of Pesky are not necessarily*** correct
*** usually

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