Now Playing: The Crucial Role of Recess

This is the second of two posts on the science (post 1), and the experience (this post), of recess.

What is “work” supposed to be and how is it supposed to happen, especially in a world where we’re discovering that the models that we’re used to are ineffective and maybe even deadly?

Following on:

The Center for Total Health invited Playworks to hold a recess, with us. 

We were joined by a team from Playworks DC (@PlayworksDC) AND Playworks Baltimore, and I took enough photographs that I stitched them together quickly so you can see what it looks like:

The session lasted about an hour and there was time in the middle where each organization spoke about its work and goals.

There’s no question in my mind that I had a more productive “meeting” with 2 Playworks organizations, and 3 Kaiser Permanente organizations (Center for Total Health, Community Benefit, Capitol Hill Medical Center) through this medium.

I could feel the neurochemical activation, and on that note, allow me to bring this back to science, and quote from the AAP statement, on children:

Several studies demonstrated that recess, whether performed indoors or outdoors, made children more attentive and more productive in the classroom


Through play at recess, children learn valuable communication skills, including negotiation, cooperation, sharing, and problem solving as well as coping skills, such as perseverance and self-control

This sounds a lot like the work of BDNF , the magical neuro secreted protein of the future (well, really, of the past), doesn’t it.

There’s also nothing like the memory of being smoked by one of your colleagues in a game of paparazzi (ahem, Celeste James) to cement lasting respect and collegiality – in health care we all serve members and patients together.

If we’re interested in total health (we are), then we have to go beyond individual lifestyle choices (“eat this, not that”) and into a world of school and work environments that promote a culture of health. They aren’t going to create themselves.

Playworks has a Corporate Recess Program, which you can access here (see: Playworks Corporate Recess: Our Team Helping Your Team! | Playworks)

The question at the top of this post is one I’ve been asking for a long time, and I’ve found different models, including ROWE (Now Reading: “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke–the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terrific” (Cali Ressler, Jody Thompson) | Ted Eytan, MD), and my own realization that work didn’t have to be shouldn’t be sitting in a room staring at a white wall for 8 hours or longer (walking meetings, anyone?). These alternative ways of getting things done aren’t a break from doing work, they are a more effective way of doing work.

And, I keep finding, despite any concern to the contrary, that everyone, everyone is willing to channel their inner child, doesn’t matter if they’re wearing overalls or a 3 piece suit.

So, we don’t have to be actors in a play with a screenplay we didn’t write – we can write our own screenplay. Come play work with us.

Would you be willing to try this where you work and post your experiences in the comments? Or if you already have/are, please post as well.

In the meantime, thank you to Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic Community Benefit and Celeste James for connecting our Community Health Initiatives, the Center for Total Health, and Capitol Hill Medical Center, and our Playworks allies from Washington, DC, Susan Comfort, Dwight Phyall, Andrea Stark, as well as Playworks Baltimore D’Ana Downing.

And a little whisper to our sibling facility, The Garfield Center (@KPGarfield), for their inspiration, too.


I have been applying this “recess” methodology over the last 10 years, except I call them “mini-breaks” or what people would call, internet surfing/walking meetings/office networking. People ask me all the time how I get so much work done and manage so many initiatives, so now I can show them this article as further proof 🙂 (btw, my only proof to date was an article that mentioned facebook mini breaks makes you more efficient than the worker bee pounding the keyboard for 8 hours). Thanks for the insight Ted.
– Oscar B.

Ted Eytan, MD