Exploration into the relationship between work and play for employed adults

Open Access
Belknap, Elise Emerson
Graduate Program:
Counselor Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 17, 2015
Committee Members:
  • Richard Hazler, Dissertation Advisor
  • Deirdre Elizabeth Mary O'sullivan, Committee Member
  • Jerry G Trusty, Committee Member
  • Edgar Paul Yoder, Special Member
  • play
  • work
  • work engagement
  • counselor education
  • counseling
  • career counseling
  • well-being
  • playfulness
  • congruence
This study focuses on the relationship between work engagement and play for employed adults. Current research suggests that work engagement is a desirable experience for both employees and employers to cultivate, producing both material and psychosocial benefits. Play and work engagement theory state that these constructs share several underlying characteristics including intrinsic motivation, positive affect, and flow suggesting that a statistically significant relationship would be present (Gray, 2011; Stairs & Galpin, 2010). Participants were gathered through social media and businesses, capturing a sample of 228 adults, 87% of which were employed full-time from 20 career family groupings. The sample was 70% white and 72% female with a median age of 37. Hierarchical regression was used to evaluate 5 hypotheses focused on the predictive capacity of playfulness and work-play congruence on the work engagement scores of the sample. The analysis found no support for the hypotheses, suggesting that playfulness and work-play congruence were not predictive of work engagement. Instead, intrinsic motivation, positive affect, and need-supply fit were the strongest predictors of work engagement. Post hoc analyses found tentative support for a relationship between playfulness and work engagement for certain subgroups (e.g. sample gathered from Facebook and participants who worked in management and administration positions). The analysis also found that, contrary to theory, playfulness was only correlated to one of the two intrinsic motivation subscales. Suggesting that playfulness as measured within this study may not have been sufficiently complex enough to fully explore the relationship between work engagement and playfulness. The findings suggest the need for more research with different measures to better understand how and if play and work engagement relate to each other.