Humans have a primal instinct to say

Humans need enrichment to live happy and healthy lives. A diversity of meaningful activities – such as the ones we have discussed in this article – drive holistic health. Part of this diversity necessitates creating boundaries – physical and psychological - around our work.

In our society, we often equate more work with more value. But the research is clear – organizations do not get more out of their people by increasing their hours. Productivity and job performance cap out at 55 hours a week.

Burn-out significantly increases when the workweek averages more than 50 hours and increases substantially again at 60 hours. Physicians – who often work 16 hours or more during a single shift – commit 3x more patient errors after working 12 hours.

Some leaders like Elon Musk claim that “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” And that to succeed we need “about 80 [hours] sustained, peaking above 100 at times.” This is a surefire way to drastically increase burn-out, commit many mistakes, and lose talent to attrition. In the case of Amazon, executives are anxious that the company is running out of people to hire due to their “burn and churn” practices.

Again, trend lines are moving in the wrong direction. Throughout the COVID period, employees report spending 13% more time in meetings and experience an average workday that is now 48 minutes longer.

Leaders need to encourage and reward their people for saying “no”. “No” to unnecessary meetings, “no” to answering emails after hours, “no” to working during vacations, “no” to working longer and longer days. Celebrate the culture of “no” loudly and proudly and say “yes” to better health and better productivity.

Try It Out

For the next 3 days…

Set a time, e.g. 6PM, to stop working. Close the laptop, turn off work email completely. Commit to filling the evening with other activities. Allow yourself not to think about, analyze, discuss, or solve work problems.

Check-in with yourself

  • How has your emotional state evolved?
  • What has your sleep quality looked like?
  • How have your overall satisfaction levels changed or not changed?

After 3 days, notice, what did these check-ins reveal? How did this support you?