4 Reasons Why You Should Work Less and Play More
Australians are working longer and longer hours. Full-time workers in Australia in 2014 worked an average of 43.2 hours per week, the ninth highest in the OECD. But do all those hours at your desk make you a better employee? Should managers think outside the box and start encouraging their staff to take time off? There are a few reasons why a shorter work day might make you a better employee.
Long hours in a desk chair has a deleterious effect on your physical and mental health. Research shows that the longer your hours, the greater your risk of depression, with workers who complete an 11 hour day or more at the highest risk. Long hours have also been strongly linked with a 67% higher risk of coronary heart disease as well as a range of “lifestyle” diseases like diabetes which can have a significant effect on health and life expectancy. Leaving work earlier and getting in a brisk walk before heading home will have a positive effect on your mood as well as your body, and make you more energetic and productive the next day.
If you’re working all the time, you’re not playing. Remember that old adage “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy?” Research shows that making the time to explore creative pursuits, such as music or literature, allows the brain to work in different ways. Just as you’ll never win a body building competition by doing tricep dips alone, your brain also needs to be exercised differently to be strong. Problem solving requires both the left and right sides of the brain, which have very different functions. Imaginative play helps strengthen both sides and encourages them to work together.
If you’re working more than 50 hours a week, you’re throwing away your time. Stanford researchers found that after a 50 hour work week, productivity drops off dramatically, and when you hit the 55 hour mark you might as well not be there at all for all the good you’re doing.
If you’re an employee, it can feel difficult to push back against ‘presentism’, where you’re judged for the hours sitting at your desk more than the work you produce in those hours. But it’s a fight worth fighting. Look for companies that encourage work/life balance, and make sure you bring your A game to work when you are there.
If you’re a manager, encourage play in your employees. Some quick ideas are:
- Provide opportunities for social interaction, with bonus points if it gets people in the fresh air and moving around. A lunchtime walking group is a great idea.
- Encourage creative thinking by keeping tactile puzzles or simple art supplies in the break room – you’ll find that your workers go back to their desks after lunch reinvigorated.
- Encourage workers to take regular breaks from their desks and give their bodies and mind a change.
What do you think?
Are you an employee who’s found a great work/life balance or a manager who champions time off? Tell us your strategies!
This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: ABC News; Help Guide; The Atlantic; Entrepreneur