Starting from the beginning of this year I decided to change how I work. I decided to spend more time working from home, at the beach or anywhere else but office.
working from home was more productive I realized I would work in between reading a book, watching CNN,cooking or just seating in front of my fridge and munching at some apples or carrots.
I stopped waking up every morning to go to work like I had been doing the previous year. People started speculating, some claiming the company had collapsed, others even said I had sold it and decided to stay home and eat my money slowly like the saying goes.
Some even said it was laziness but to me this new routine was all about avoiding the tipping point of overwork.
Even though the amount of time you work tends to match how productive you are as if on a sliding scale, the length of work and quality of work at a certain point become inversely related. At some point, in other words, the more you work, the less productive you become.
For example, working long hours often leads to productivity-killing distractions. There is a law known as Parkinson’s Law, which states that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion. Work less, and you’ll tend to work better.
In fact, not only did I work less, but also took more naps throughout the day and indulged in breaks during work when I grew tired or stressed. It has long been known that working too much leads to life-shortening stress.
It also leads to disengagement at work, as focus simply cannot be sustained for much more than 50 hours a week. Even Henry Ford knew the problem with overwork when he cut his employees’ schedules from 48-hour weeks to 40-hour weeks. He believed that working more than 40 hours a week had been causing his employees to make many errors, as he recounted in his autobiography, My Life and Work.
It seems silly that many work long hours simply for the sake of having worked long hours. Perhaps the reason people overwork even when it is not for “reward, punishment, or obligation” is because it holds great social cachet.
Busyness implies hard work, which implies good character, a strong education, and either present or future affluence. The phrase, “I can’t; I’m busy,” sends a signal that you’re not just a serious person (an homme sérieux), but an important one at that.
There is also a belief among many people, that work is an inherently noble pursuit. Many feel existentially lost without the driving structure of work in their life—even if that structure is neither proportionally profitable nor healthy in a physical or psychological sense.
Everyone would likely agree that “we work to have leisure, on which happiness depends.” The motivation for employees to work hard is the carrot of a relaxing retirement.
Yet this cause-and-effect often gets flipped such that we fit our lives into our work, rather than fitting our work into our lives.
The widespread belief that happiness and life satisfaction can be found exclusively through hard work is at a heart more a management myth meant to motivate workers than it is a philosophical truism.
In his 1932 essay “In Praise of Idleness,” the British philosopher Bertrand Russell corrects this idea, writing, “A great deal of harm is being done in the modern world by belief in the virtuousness of work.” Rather, “the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work.”
That is to say happiness is ultimately not found in late nights spent at work, but in finding a way to work less, even if that means buying fewer things or recalibrating your perspective such that having free time no longer suggests moral shortcomings.
At Flash Point we decided to diverge from this thinking over working, though many organizations and people out there are still stuck on the fundamental importance of work compared to free time: the structure it gives, the purpose it affords, the morality it signifies.
But what if we viewed leisure time not as goofing off, but as necessary time for reflecting, for inspiring creativity, and for saving up brainpower and energy for future work? Working too much is at best, pointless, and at worst, actively harmful.
Overwork dictates our physical health, psychological health, and our time with family, and often it is rooted in our own desire to ennoble the act of working, to feel productive (even if we’re not being productive), and to be able to tell other people, “I’m busy,” as a means of social prestige.
Jaluum Herberts is the C.E.O of Flash Point an east African Information Technology Consultancy firm.He is also a co founder at YOUNG TREPS a global forum that focuses on helping the youth on their entrepreneurial voyage from brilliant ideas and start ups to financially profitable and prosperous companies.