We’ve been suckered! “there is no real difference between work and play – it’s all living” says Richard Branson

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Richard Branson recently said “there is no real difference between work and play – it’s all living” How profoundly true this statement is.

I spent yesterday speaking at the  excellent Business Leaders Group and the concept of where we work and how we work was a strong theme of discussion among the business leaders who I was fortunate to be sharing the day with. We discussed how so many businesses and leaders believe that people are only productive when sitting at a their desk and arriving on time to work from 9 to 5.

This is still the majority mindset even though we now have the technology to work from anywhere at any time. But why does this Industrial Era management mindset persist so strongly in today’s fast pace modern world? I’d suggest it’s because it’s what we know best, it’s what we think of as being “normal”. And this way of work has been the normal though-out our lifetime. The thing is this “normal” is actually the abnormal. We’ve only worked like this for the past 80 years at most and it’s really only in the last 60 years that this way of working has truly taken hold. Before then work and play were one. Of course Industrialists would like us to think that separating work from our real lives is best and the only way for people to work because they want to keep control of the people who work for them. But Capitalists and Entrepreneurs, the real value creators of our economy, people like Richard Branson know that there is no divide between work and play, it’s all living. And when you recognise this as the true reality the real mindset, then all the negative things about work and the workplace that suck the living soul out of people can be eliminated.

The Industrialist mindset to work is disrespectful to people, it shackles them to their workstations and does not value or reward creativity or free thinking. In many ways freethinking is the enemy of the Industrialist. I recently went to a talk by Seth Godin where he illuminated this problem brilliantly:

Industrial system has nothing to do with capitalism. The Capitalist says take risks, fail often, figure out how to use capital, innovate and make a profit. The Industrialists says: After a capitalist figures out how to make a profit, polish the system, perfect the system, optimise the system, Industrialists do not like risks, they do not like change – industrialists are willing to change us if it helps them make more money.

Industrialist needed us to work cheap and do as we are told and they got us to buy into this contract because doing so enabled us to buy a lot of stuff – and as Seth went further to say:

Here’s the thing just because you are winning doesn’t mean it’s a good game… Woman goes to a psychiatrist and says doctor doctor my husband thinks he is a chicken, the psychiatrist says: ‘how long has this been going on’  – woman says: ‘three months’ – The psychiatrist says: ‘OMG three months why didn’t you come to me sooner!’  Woman says – ‘we needed the eggs!’ Here’s the problem,  there are all these side-effects to industrial system: side effects about deadening the human soul, side-effects about pollution, side-effects of not treating other people with respect, side effects towards the environment; but we went along because we needed the eggs.

This is, however, all changing (although the Industrialists will fight hard to make us believe that it isn’t). The reality is that work and play are one, it’s all living.

Richard Branson captures this brilliantly in a recent post that he wrote

Where I Work: Surrounded By People (and Swimming in Tea)

By Richard Branson

This post can also be read on Linkedin

When I work I see people. Whether I am at home on Necker Island, or on the move somewhere in the world, there are always other people around, to bounce ideas off of and to provide inspiration. I have never liked locking myself away in a separate office, or spending long periods alone to work out plans. That has continued from the days when we ran Student Magazine out of a crypt in London with people coming and going as they pleased, to now when we have many different companies around the globe.

My most regular working place is on Necker, where I have a wonderful view of the ocean, and plenty of space to relax and think. We often have all manner of interesting people on the island, who either directly or indirectly contribute to my work. In the photo, you can see a group of young entrepreneurs taking part in the MaiTai event on Necker. We discussed new technology and shared some innovative ideas – as well as a lot of kitesurfing.

Another crucial part to my workplace is a steady supply of tea. More often than not, there is a restorative cuppa in my hand. The scene might not look much like working – you won’t find a suit or tie anywhere, and lots of people are enjoying snacks. Work doesn’t always have to mean timed meetings and official processes. Lots of the best ideas come off the cuff, out of conversations like the one happening in the photo.

As I have said before, there is no real difference between work and play – it’s all living. So your workspace can simply be wherever you are, whatever you are doing.

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