When Work and Play Are One

JOHN Jameson makes a compelling observation about how, in happy fortunate cases, the line between work and play is blurred. The lucky few in this world who experience this work-play overlap are those who have found their true calling, regardless of their field—folks such as professional sportsmen like Tiger Woods for instance, or tech geeks like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, or even businessmen-turned-politicians like Donald Trump.

Let’s consider sports stars like Woods for a moment, or Rafael Nadal or Kobe Bryant. Woods lives to play golf, Nadal lives to play tennis, and Bryant, basketball. For all of these sportsmen, their passion is their work. For them, the line is not even blurred; there is no line at all. Then there are the actors, the singers, the writers, the chefs. Business and pleasure come together in perfect harmony. We know such a person when we see one.

In Singapore, students don’t just go to schools to learn, to study, to make the grade for the next level. That’s work, essentially, seen through the eyes of a student. Enter the good old virtues of extra-curricular learning, students today are finding that work and play can merge. Think of those Outward Bound School-type camps. Sure, some students would consider that work, particularly those who aren’t so outdoor-inclined. But in general, these camps have the flavor of play—from the physical workouts to the teamwork games. The learning and the growing all come through play.

As far as the corporate world goes, play is big as well. Companies have retreats or sales quota club events where staff get away for, yes, some work, but outside of that, there are team games, even tours if the retreat happens to be overseas. Other creative ways of instilling play include masak masak, the kiddie term in Malay to refer to a cooking game.

At TOTT, the cooking school and kitchenware store, corporations can hire their cooking studios for half a day or the entire day to bolster teamwork among their staff through masak masak. Teams are split across the island work stations and assigned a cooking challenge. In this way, colleagues can get to collaborate creatively with each other (that’s work), and at the same time, cook a dish or bake a cake all can enjoy (that’s play), while turning it into a competition (that’s work and play).

Even at the highest level of office in our tiny island state, we witness how work and play could be one and the same thing. Follow Singapore’s Prime Minister on Facebook, you’d find that he’s a fine example of someone who believes in that adage, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” He is known for enjoying his walks, or “#jalanjalan,” as he calls it. Through his pictures and posts, he is not only engaging his citizens, he’s sending a subtle message: Take time to smell the roses, take time to be with your loved one, take time to relax, because life is not all about work—which is a more elegant way of describing work-life balance.

(518 words)

G.J. Tan, Secondary Four
April 2016

Also by G.J.: Appearances Fool Us, All the Time

This essay is written in response to the Application Question from the ‘A’ Levels 2009 General Paper exam:

How far do you agree with the author’s views on work and leisure? Illustrate your answer/own views by referring to the ways in which you and your society regard work and leisure. 


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