The creative will inherit the earth: all work and no play makes us dull and obsolete

Imagine your ideal workplace.

No, seriously. Imagine your desk/your boss/your coworkers/your meeting rooms- your ideal workplace.

Well you’re categorically wrong, unless you thought of a zipwire and a jacuzzi. Now picture the scene. Pool tables. Bowling alleys. Free food. Gym memberships. It even employs a chief happiness officer whose sole job is to keep employees happy and maintain productivity. Breakout zones. Gaming areas where staff can chill out and chat; classes that broaden workers’ horizons, such as languages, painting and drawing, and learning musical instruments.

Surely this is the stuff of make believe? A workspace that only exists in the imagination of our inner child? Well, no: I just described the Google headquarters in Silicon Valley. Side note: I’ve never wanted to be a software engineer more in my life. It’s a low bar, but you get the gist.

And you may well be thinking… why? What could possibly be beneficial about a workplace as relaxing as your own bedroom? But that’s exactly it. What could increase motivation to come to work more?

this topic really intrigued me, and considering WHS’s new focus on STEAM, I hope we’re all relatively invested in the arts. Even the wording of the statement includes idiomatic turns of phrase that show the impact of creative minds. I was also very intrigued by ‘dull and obsolete’, which I would interpret both as mentally unfulfilled and boring, but also perhaps stagnant and archaic in terms of technological advancements.

So let’s begin by addressing the wording of the statement: ‘All work and no play’?  Who says work and play are mutually exclusive? Many creative endeavours could absolutely be called ‘work’ -not only fields that spring to mind like writers, musicians and artists, but also more ‘mainstream’ careers like advertising or architecture. And any workplace is improved by nurturing creativity. Mark Rhodes, director of marketing at recruitment firm Reed, says: “All employers stand to gain by promoting creativity at work. The most successful businesses are those that engender creative thinking and develop environments where everyone generates ideas, has a voice, asks questions and challenges the norm.”  Jobs in the creative industries in the UK alone rose by nearly 20% to 1.9 million between 2011 and 2016.

But it’s precisely because of the ‘playful’, pleasurable appeal that any kind of ‘creative’* venture is lucrative. Recreational spending is prevalent in all developed countries like the UK, and it’s certainly a supplement to those economies. Creative industries are so profitable- surely the fact we perceive a dichotomy between creative ‘play’ and work shows us to be dull and obsolete in our outlook?

Secondly, in the future artificial intelligence will presumably replace non-creative professions (like accounting et cetera) Low demand for purely non-creative skill-sets will make those with imaginative, ‘soft’ skills more employable. Indeed, there is a massive creative input required in producing advanced technology in the first place. Designing of any kind requires innovation and a degree of blue-sky thinking, But it’s also required for pragmatic and financial reasons. For example,  SpaceX founder Elon Musk, arguably the front-runner in the mission to colonise Mars, described the idea of ‘this great photograph of green plants on a red background- the first life on Mars, as far as we know’ as a ‘great money shot’, to ‘spur the national will’. This illuminates how artistic outlooks are required both for the advancement of technology and also the practical support of business ventures.

Finally, once certain fields are inevitably taken over by more efficient synthesized intelligence, we’ll encounter the psychological effects of ‘dullness and obsolescence’. An experiment conducted on over 100 adolescents in New Zealand showed those engaging in hobbies such as creative writing, visual arts or musical composition and performance felt their wellbeing was elevated and reported more motivation and productivity regarding creative activities in the following days. We currently turn to workplaces for internal and external validation and for general occupation, but what will happen when certain careers are phased out? Creative pastimes also give us achievable goals and purposes, filling the void of increased leisure time, but they have none of the drawbacks of a corporate, formal setting. This gives a stress-free, low-pressure environment, which is better for morale and overall enjoyment.

To summarise: the creative shall, so to speak ‘inherit the earth’, in a combination of mental fulfilment in and out of the workplace; increased employability and salary; and possibly even inherit Mars into the bargain.