Once upon a time our days had a break where we could get away from the daily grind and just be free. It was a glorious span of time everyday when you got to take a mindless break from structure to go outside and spend time with friends doing whatever you wanted. It was called recess and it was awesome.
As we “graduated” from elementary school recess was lost. We moved on to middle school and it was replaced by gym class, then upon graduating high school gym class was replaced by “exercise” (if we are so inclined). All of these are meant to replace recess by filling the need for activity in our daily lives, and if that were all recess provided they would be the perfect replacement. The problem is the replacements don’t even come close to filling the shoes of recess.
What was great about recess was that it was filled with fun, play, and mindless games like wallball, red rover, 5,000, tag, and cops and robbers. Recess provided not only a break, but a haven for us to do what we wanted to do; play. Play is the heart and soul of recess, and can never be replaced by a metric driven gym class or exercise routine. Exercising to achieve a goal is great, but with play there are no goals; wallball, tag, and cops and robbers are all games without a scoreboard…it’s just mindless fun.
It was mindless fun combined with exercise that prepped us to be mentally ready for the rest of the day at school; but fear not, mindless fun is not just for school kids and it is not forever lost. Mindless fun is what happens when you take a break from working and start playing. It’s throwing a baseball back and forth, playing tag or Simon says; it is an excellent way to recharge your mind during the day, and it may just be making its way to your office.
Corporate America as a whole might still scoff at the concept of bringing recess back, but the movement is beginning. Recess at work has been proven to increase employee engagement and production, improve the health and moral of employees, as well as decrease company costs (as a result of improved health). It has been estimated that companies implement and encourage recess at work earn a return of $1.50 to $2 for every dollar the company spends implementing recess at work (source). That’s not to shabby of an ROI for something that costs very little to implement and everyone would enjoy.
Perhaps you could be the one to help start it at your office. Keen Footwear has launched a “Recess is Back” campaign to encourage other companies to get their employees out of the offices for some playtime. On their website they have everything you need (except for the bravery) to approach your company about starting a program. They have a tool kit, calculator for estimating increased savings, ideas for activities, sample letters to executives and it’s all laid out pretty well. So why not give it a shot?
I know I’ve been itching to play catch, maybe I’ll soon squeeze in a few minutes at the office, and maybe soon enough you’ll have a 4square court in your company parking lot.
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