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Recreation is an important part of everyday life. It is needed to stay mentally and physically healthy which are fundamental human needs. Individuals can take part in recreational activities in different ways and in various locations. One place they can participate is in the workplace, specifically, those in urban areas. Though it may sound unconventional, especially in certain types of workplaces, there are considerable benefits to participating in workplace recreation and few constraints. Regardless of the situation in the workplace, the benefits outweigh the constraints and hence, some form of recreation should be offered to employees in the workplace.
A workforce is defined as “the workers engaged in a specific activity or enterprise”, so an ‘urban workforce’ would be described as a subset of that group that works in a highly populated area such as a city. Over the years, the urban labour force has steadily grown. For example, in 2016, Toronto had a total employment of 1, 461, 020 people, while in 2017, that number grew to 1, 518, 560. Between 2016 and 2017 there was a growth in employment of 3. 9%. In terms of downtown verses more rural areas, “Toronto’s Downtown and Centres contained 637, 650 jobs in 2017, or 42. 0 per cent of all employment. ”
There are a variety of benefits that result from implementing recreation programs in the workplace. One of the most important would be that it reduces stress, which continues to be a huge problem for many workers. “According to a survey of 800, 000 workers in over 300 companies, the number of employees calling in sick because of stress tripled from 1996 to 2000. An estimated one million workers are absent every day due to stress. ” There is no getting away from stress, because just like recreation, it is a part of everyday life. Participating in recreation can “distract employees from stressful problems and provide a chance to increase positive mood or decrease negative mood, enhancing the ability to deal with stress and elevating well-being”. Although it cannot be eliminated, it can be reduced. For example, fitness programs for employees “are thought to reduce the impact of stress by improving the health of the employees through higher fitness levels, and improved health from fewer stress symptoms has been assumed to reduce absenteeism. ”
Fitness programs can be accomplished in various ways, ranging from company-paid gym memberships to onsite gyms, depending on budget and/or space available. Another very important benefit to workplace recreation is teambuilding. For example, if a group of employees were to participate in a team-based activity, they would learn to work with each other outside of work. It would create a stronger bond, “where employees feel supported by each other and making the office a place where workers are keen to spend their time. ” Even things as simple as spending time together can strengthen the relationships between coworkers. For example, research discussed on the Human Resources Director website “found that if employees eat lunch together on a regular basis they are much more likely to be engaged. And if they are more engaged then they are more productive. ”
One benefit that can come from free-use work-provided recreation is the option of autonomy; letting the employees structure their day how they want. Giving employees autonomy allows them to have at least some control over their work, letting them take breaks when necessary. But at the same time, the organization of the work environment must fit this strategy. For example, PointClickCare, a Canadian software company based in Mississauga, has a fairly relaxed structure when it comes to how work gets accomplished. Most projects have specific due dates. Employees can structure their day the way they choose, as long as they complete their work by the due date. One last important benefit of workplace recreation is improved health. Depending on the type of recreation, the amount of health benefits gained will vary. “Undertaking an activity unrelated to work means that employees can have respite during the day and use different parts of their brain. ”
Simply doing something else such as playing on your phone or taking a bit of time to read can ‘reset’ your brain so you can be ready to work again. As discussed above, more physical recreational activities reduce stress, which improves one’s mental and bodily health. “It generally is assumed that absenteeism rates will drop with increased physical fitness levels because: (a) increased fitness levels lead to improved health, and (b) healthier employees are less likely to be absent. ” Healthier employees not only, leads to less absent employees, but also to more productive employees. The ultimate goal of workplace recreation should be to improve the work environment, whether it be to reduce stress, strengthen the bond between coworkers, promote autonomy, or improve the overall health of employees. Just as recreation is a part of everyday personal life, it should also be a regular part of work life.
In contrast to the benefits gained from workplace recreation, constraints vary greatly depending on things like workplace structure, work hours, company budget, etc. Anything that inhibits one’s ability to participate in recreational activities is considered a constraint of a workplace recreation program. The first, and arguably the biggest constraint for workplace recreation is the structure of the workplace itself. For example, the software company mentioned above, PointClickCare, has a structure that is ideal for workplace recreation. The work hours are flexible and the only non-negotiable part are the project deadlines. How the employees choose to structure their day is up to them, as long as they complete their work. As a stark contrast, larger, chain-based establishments such as fast food restaurants are unfit for most kinds of workplace recreation. For example, a McDonalds restaurant has a workplace structure that is fit for working only, meaning employees would come in to work, take a break if their shift is long enough, and leave. There is no real ‘room’ for recreational activities, both in terms of work schedule and physical room. The issue with this constraint is that it cannot be fixed without changing the structure of the workplace itself. Using McDonalds as an example again, a typical restaurant is set up with three sections; the main area for the customers, the kitchen, and a break room. There is no space for recreation without expanding the building itself. Some workplaces, can reduce or eliminate this constraint by changing the way schedules work or having areas available for recreational activities like PointClickCare has done. Others, such as McDonalds, do not have this option and need to come up with alternate programs for employees.
Another constraint is that some employees simply not having the time for recreational activities at work. As previously mentioned, PointClickCare has a fairly flexible work schedule, so employees can choose when they take breaks. Compare that to more ‘fast paced’ workplaces such as McDonalds and other fast food restaurants, where employees are only allowed a short break after a certain amount of time. If a shift is less than that, the employee is not allowed a break at all. A possible solution to this is to let employees take breaks when they need them. However, this may not be an option because their jobs are very time-sensitive because of the customers. One problem with workplace-offered recreation is that it requires the use of company budget, and some companies are unable to spare the money or choose to not spend it. For example, a small start-up company would most likely not have enough money to spare to offer recreational activities. A corporation like McDonalds, on the other had, does not include them at the restaurant level because, as mentioned before, the work structure there does not support it. It appears that they only offer standard benefits. On their website, McDonalds states “Full-time McDonald’s employees are eligible for enhanced total compensation and benefits, such as our Comprehensive Group Insurance Plan that offers extended health, dental, disability and life insurance for employees and their families”, but do not go into further detail. One last constraint of workplace-offered recreation is the willingness to participate.
A study discussed in the A Case Study of a Workplace Recreation-based Physical Activity Program article explains how participants of a program talked about how their willingness to participate in fitness activities at work wavered because of different issues. “There’s no place to dress here. I’d have to go change in the bathroom or in my office. . . If I’m going to exercise it needs to be fairly vigorous, and I have no place to take a shower here. I’d have to fix my hair, and put on make-up. I would have to get undressed and dressed, and that’s going to take more than an hour”. Although there were other issues mentioned, the participants mentioned all ended up participating in physical recreation because they compromised.
In conclusion, there are countless benefits that come from workplace recreation. Some are more general, while others depend on factors such as the type of activity done. In contrast, most constraints of workplace recreation can be solved and if not, are outweighed by the benefits. As recreation is needed to stay mentally and physically healthy, it should not only be a regular part of personal life, but work life as well. Thus, some form of recreation should be offered to employees in the workplace.
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