Throughout the 2016-2017 school year, I had the honor of helping to promote the mission and message of Playworks New England by generating local and regional media placements around a variety of programs and events. The regional branch of a national nonprofit integrates physical activity and social and emotional learning skill-building into organized activities during recess as a way of helping children to move, grow and learn.
Studies show that students who play at least 20 minutes a day develop healthier lifestyles and achieve greater academic, social, and emotional success. But, what about adults? While we can’t play tag or four square during recess like kids do, how do movement and organized activities during the work day affect the social, physical and professional success of adults? For clarity, I sought advice from Jonathan Gay, Executive Director of Playworks New England.
AE: Why is it important to get up and move throughout the day?
JG: The majority of adults spend most of their time at work sedentary, whether it is sitting at their desk or in meetings. It is important to build movement into your daily work day to avoid the trap of sitting still. Movement breaks, walking meetings, and playful recess often lead to getting people active.
AE: What are the benefits? How does movement affect us?
JG: Play leads to creative thinking and more honest exchanges with colleagues. With respect to creative thinking, it helps professionals think outside the box, give professionals a spark of energy, as well as give professionals the opportunity to step outside the sedentary confines of the desk. With respect to honest exchanges, play is a great way to build culture within a work environment. Play naturally builds core values of inclusion and respect. Additionally, it gives employees a better way to get to know one another.
AE: Through Playworks programming, youth learn many leadership, collaboration and conflict resolution skills through organized games and activities played during recess. Can the same be said for adults? How do organized activities within the office benefit relationships and success at work?
JG: Play and organized team building is a great way to get to know one another. Studies show that teams that can relate with one another both personally and professionally produce better results. I feel that when you know each other’s name, interests, and motivations, you can truly help one another be successful.
AE: How do you energize your office staff to get up and move during the work day?
JG: Playworks employees practice what we preach – play works. Every day in the office in the mid-afternoon, we celebrate office recess. Any employees that are in the office and are able to step away from their desk, participate in a 20-30 minute office recess. Additionally, we encourage walking meetings and short movement breaks during the day. I notice a large difference in the productivity of our employees after these movement breaks. The team building that happens during the movement breaks transition into better collaboration between departments and employees.
AE: What tips or suggestions do you have for professionals looking to take a break from their desks?
JG: First, build it into your work schedule. Walking meetings and movement breaks are a great way to be productive but also be active during the day. Second, identify what sort of play is ideal for you and your team. You can start an intramural sports team during the after work hours or a workout class before the day begins. Third, contact Playworks. We can come to your office and host a recess in your conference room or bring you to a local elementary school to participate in recess alongside students.
At the end of the day, to work better, you must treat your mind, body and soul better. Take advantage of those warm sunny summer days. Get up from your desk, go outside, and stretch!