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Play and Work

September 5, 2014

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week has gone well and you have a relaxing weekend planned. I’m looking forward to relaxing this weekend after spending last week moving and unpacking in our new home. It is hard to believe we are already through the first week of September. It is inching closer to the start of the quarter here on campus and I feel the usual combination of excitement and panic at the start of another academic year. It seems appropriate at the close of the summer (at least here in the Northern Hemisphere) to talk a bit about play and work as it seems like the being of another school year the balance seems to flip back to work as opposed to play. So let’s discuss a bit.

The idea for this post came courtesy of this post at tiny buddha: benefits of bringing more play into your work. I enjoyed reading about how play became infused into the work day and professionalism and productivity didn’t suffer. And, happiness increased. That is just great and it is always nice to have these kind of stories because I think they help to persuade management and administration that having fun and working don’t have to be polar opposite forces, opposing each other. And I think that is something that more of us need to keep in mind, whether we work in a library, archives, or wherever.

My first publication as a librarian was titled, “Seriously, play!” so obviously this concept of integrating work and play is near and dear to my heart. (It can still be read here). What I found interesting then, and still interesting now, is that while some people acknowledge the importance of play in learning and in work, others don’t and/or won’t see that play is important to work. While I don’t think we can change everyone’s mind to seeing the value of play in work, I would suggest that we can use this knowledge to our own advantage as we try to increase engagement and happiness at work.

Being open to play at work doesn’t mean we are going to be having water balloon fights in the stacks (that would be horrible for the books), but that we can be open to trying new things and being a bit silly at times. And that makes for a more comfortable environment and closer teams so that when we do have to tackle tough deadlines and projects, we actually have the reserves and desire to do so.

I think being able to see and experience play and work as supporting each other instead of battling each other is another way to combat the ongoing fight of creating a balanced life. If we aren’t enjoying our work and being engaged at work, I don’t see how we can ever have a balanced or fulfilling life. Then each workday is just a slog and that is no way to live. Finding moments to test out new things, to try new things without judgement and to support each other in these goals is what makes my workdays better. Also, let’s face it, it is almost impossible not to smile when someone else is smiling and not to catch some excitement or happiness when someone else is obviously enjoying their playful work and invites you to join in.

As an example, I approach every teaching experience as one part stand-up comedy routine, one part experiment, and one part serious academic. This balance works for me and has been working for my students for the last six years. Humor is a great way to break tension, especially when students are learning difficult concepts and struggling, as they should as they grow as learners. A sense of experimentation is necessary as not every group, student, or class learns the same or responds to the same material or delivery or exercise or whatever. And being a serious academic is necessary to lead the class, to facilitate learning, to guide the students, and to make sure that respect goes both ways in creating a positive, supportive space. I’m passionate about my teaching, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun with it. If anything, if I stopped having fun and having a playful attitude around it, I think I’d probably be the most boring, horrible teacher for my students, if not just a bad model for what it is like to be a professional or academic.

So, I just wanted to say that I think we can all infuse a little more play with our work and gain a lot for our working lives from our play. So remember to enjoy. Life is too short to have people tell you that you need to be serious all the time or that play and work go together like oil and water. It’s all a process, this life and work, so make it a fun one.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend full of play. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

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