Why is recess not incorporated into the workplace?
Recess: A regularly scheduled period during the school day for students to engage in physical activity and play with their peers. A concept that is deeply embedded in educational systems around the world and incorporated into the average school day, but not work day.
My experience with recess usually involved an intense game of four square or knock out. If I wasn’t on the chalked up tarmac, I could be found on the playground, competing with my friends for the fastest time across the monkey bars or playing freeze tag on the wood chips.
Recess was always a time for me to take a break from the LED lights of a classroom and enjoy the outdoors with my friends. I learned valuable skills that could not be taught in a classroom; how to be a team player, how to foster creative and imaginative thinking, and how to address conflicts. These lessons shaped my early social skills.
Once I reached high school, recess was replaced with competitive team sports. Now, in college, without a scheduled time for recess or sports, I find it hard to find the time to get outside.
As we grow older and the reality of adult responsibilities sink in, our lives outdoors are put on hold as we tend to our busy lives indoors behind computer screens. This change that comes with age is so gradual that we barely even notice how our busy schedules have taken over, resulting in minimal outdoor activity and extreme stress.
Research in a growing scientific field called ecotherapy has shown a connection between time spent in nature and reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.
The stress that college students experience isn’t just from their busy schedules and heavy workload, but lack of time spent outside, a phenomenon that was left behind in the early days of childhood recess.
In the workplace, 86% of American office workers sit all day, sending emails, making phone calls, writing proposals, preparing for meetings, and eating lunch. A work day stuffed inside a small cubicle, where the most movement workers get is a walking to the printer or bathroom, leaves very little room for any meaningful exercise or time spent outdoors.
Biophilic design dates back to the early 1980s when Edward Wilson put forth his philosophy of biophilia. This concept is now used in the building industry to allow for greater connectivity between occupants and nature. According to the book Biophilic Design: Theory, Science and Practice, incorporating elements of nature into the workplace can improve productivity, reduce stress, and enhance creativity.
Companies that have recognized the benefits associated with biophilic design, have positively transformed their work environment by implementing soft wood tones, bright greenery, several open spaces, and glass walls, just a few of the many elements associated with this emerging architectural movement. Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, and Google, four incredibly successful businesses, have seen the positive results of adopting principles of biophilic design in their workplaces.
Harvard Business Review states that embedding exercise into the regular workday may boost company performance.
Many companies have hopped on this trend by building onsite gyms for workers to utilize during their 9am – 5 pm day. Facebook, Apple, General Mills, Verizon Wireless, and Goldman Sachs all value the importance of a healthy lifestyle and as a result benefit from positive work performance delivered by their active employees.
Many busy, working parents are concerned that companies are spending too much money on expensive gyms and too little on childcare. Incorporating physical activity and the outdoors into the workplace does not necessarily need to involve high powered treadmills, ellipticals or shiny new bikes. Companies can avoid these steep costs that come with the glamor of fitness by allowing time for employees to get outside for a 20 minute walk, just as they allow time for something as necessary as employee lunch breaks.
By combining elements of nature and daily exercise into the workplace, similar to recess, companies will reap the benefits of this modern phenomenon as their employees will maintain an elevated mood, be more energetic, stress free, and overall more productive.
Recess shouldn’t be something we grow out of. It’s time companies incorporate recess into the work day for a more dynamic and efficient environment.
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