Today’s world is full of workaholics, diehard grinders and overachievers. People who are proud to announce they work 70+ hours a week never sleep, bring work on vacation and wear it on their sleeve like a badge of honor. But, what if you found out these people were actually less productive, at greater risk of disease and had a shorter lifespan than those who work 40 hours a week or less?
We are not necessarily working more hours than ever, but we are more connected than ever. We are on call, day or night, through email, text, phone and social media. We are addicted to checking notifications. So, is it a coincidence that mental health, coronary disease and suicide rates are on the rise? Studies are showing that it is no coincidence.
The myth that you need to grind and burn yourself out to be successful is just not true and has tremendous negative consequences. People who work more than 10 hours a day are at an 80% increased risk of coronary disease. Women who work 60 hours a week are 3 times more likely to develop cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis. Long work hours are directly related to depression, type 2 diabetes and alcoholism. After the 8th or 9th hour of work you are at a substantially higher risk of injury on the job. The World Health Organization estimates that mental disorders and substance abuse costs employers over 100 billion dollars a year. People are taking less vacations. In fact 700 million paid vacation days have been given up in the past year. These statistics are not only true in working adults. Being connected all the time affects every age. The number one cause of death for middle-schoolers is now suicide. A few years ago it was car accidents. The average stress level of millennials is 5.4 out of 10, baby boomers 4.3 and older generations 3.7. Taking a look at history, we should be dancing in the streets with how great our world looks on paper. Technology has advanced, discrimination against race, sex and gender is decreasing, and the economy is booming. However, mental health and disease are on the rise. We are overworked, connected all the time and just not built for it.
Aaron Edelheit talks in his book “The Hard Break” about taking a full 24 hours off of work. The 24/6 method advocates for 24 hours of no stimulus from work and other notifications. People who manage their workload and take one day off a week are more creative, innovative, productive and better at problem solving. Treat it like a vacation day every week. Turn off your phone and computer, get off of social media and do not talk about or do any work. Instead, connect with friends and family. Give them your undistracted self, take a nap, experience nature or do things that work doesn’t allow you to do during the week. Make it enjoyable. Take your kids’ phones too and control their social media exposure. Why a full day? Elevated cortisol levels (from work, school and other stress) take a full 24 hours to return to normal. When you’re relaxing part of your brain actually goes into overdrive. The Default Mode Network takes in experiences, problems you faced, and other information from your day/week and processes them to make them into habits and actually solves minor issues that you will come in contact with again. Your brain needs these breaks to adapt and overcome your workweek and other stressors.
There are several examples of successful people and companies who are pushing employees to do this. Sports for example are moving in the opposite direction of business. Athletes are pushing for more time off, easier schedules and are putting more emphasis on the necessity of recovery. Teams are giving more breaks and controlling schedules more tightly due to injury and decreased performance from over-working and burnout. Athletes are turning off devices and social media during playoffs and important events to improve their focus on what matters. They are sleeping 9-10 hours a day with no distractions. This push for recovery modes are resulting in greater performance across all sports.
Chick-Fil-A is another great example. They close every Sunday at every location. They bring in 4 times the revenue of KFC who has been around longer. Chick-Fil-A says the key to their success is that one day off a week. Happier and more productive employees and a greater retention are the result of this.
A co-founder of Facebook states he severely regrets how much he worked, and how much pressure he put on his employees to work as much and as hard as they could. He since founded the number one company to work for in the US that requires their employees to work no longer than 9-to-5 every day. More companies are putting boundaries on employee hours and not allowing overtime.
The Broadway show “Hamilton” was actually discovered from the director going on vacation and picking up a book at the airport. He read the book on vacation, came back refreshed and revitalized and wrote the play based on that book.
There is no shortage of success stories from those who put restriction on their hours of work, notifications and devices. For those of the Judeo-Christian faith, we are called to rest on Sundays. It is a commandment we often forget or choose to ignore. But, regardless of faith, take one day off a week and see how your health and productiveness improves. Then share with your employees or loved ones around you and see the results take off.
Edelheit, Aaron. The Hard Break. Ideapress Publishing, 2018.
“#503: The Case for the 24/6 Lifestyle.” The Art of Manliness, Podcast, 28 Apr. 2019., aom.is/hardbreak.