We are working too hard, and it's bad for us and for the companies we serve.
Every year, Americans accrue billions of dollars worth of vacation days that they are not taking. Most of us are skipping lunch breaks too, in favor of eating lunch at our desks or not at all. As one expert put it, we are, in effect, “giving away our time for free.”
So is all this extra work helping us accomplish more?
In a word: no.
When employees stop taking breaks, their productivity and creativity suffer, as does their job satisfaction. Stress levels increase. General health levels decline. It’s bad for companies, bad for employees, and I’d venture that it’s bad for their families too.
Many women are afraid of taking vacation time or leaving the office for lunch, fearing that their commitment to the job might be questioned. Or they feel guilty about taking a walk around the block at lunch, thinking that if they worked through that time, they might get home a little earlier.
But if more of us start taking healthy breaks, we’d all be better off.
Your brain works a lot like a muscle; as you use it throughout the day at work, it gets tired, and a tired brain isn’t good at much of anything. You can replenish your thinking power in a relatively short amount of time by physically moving around, changing your environment, and clearing your head, or stimulating a different part of your brain with a short class or fun lunch event (you can look here for 4word events in your area). Checking your Facebook page doesn’t count (and in fact, might be counter-productive).
We all understand that our physical bodies need sleep. We rest our muscles after exercising. We seek out rest for our souls at church on Sunday. It’s time to start taking care of our brains in the same way!
Like all of your God-given resources, you should take care of your mind by giving it the breaks it needs. This honors the example set by God. You think your brain is working hard? Just think how much creative energy it must have taken to create the world! And after creation, Genesis tells us, God rested (Genesis 2:2-3).
Sometimes it’s easier to take a break from work if you think of it in terms of the value it can bring to other important areas. Even when my career was in full swing, I always tried to take time for lunch, and on most days I included someone else. I knew that I needed a change of pace, and also that I’m energized by interacting and relating to other people, but I also knew the importance of relationship-building. It’s important in all walks of life to build relationships with others, but even strictly from a business perspective, the ability to build a strong network of colleagues and mentor/sponsor figures is critical to long-term career success. Furthermore, God commands us to be “in relationship” with others and He works in those relationships. For me, lunch was always to best time to focus on that area. By simply “breaking bread” with people over many years, I built relationships that I would never have dreamed would bear the kinds of fruits that they have. Relationships that enriched my life and my career, and ministered to my soul.
I’m a naturally driven, intensely hard worker, so real “rest” is sometimes quite challenging for me. I have to be very conscientious about “turning off,” and still I often fail. I keep trying though, and I do think that I’m getting better. Bit by bit, I’ve come to see that good hard work is enabled by rest, not hindered by it.
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