“The early bird gets the worm.” “Keep your nose to the grindstone.” “Hard work beats talent.” We have all heard these expressions and many more emphasizing the importance of hard work and the character and success that follows. Even Thomas Jefferson said, “I'm a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.”
There is no argument that good ol' fashioned hard work is good for the soul and usually good for business. However, the entire concept of “working smarter, not harder” is starting to be proven as more productive. In fact in this always-on, always-connected digital society, this means going off the grid regularly, taking more breaks and even unwinding in front of the TV. Could the “boob tube” actually make you a more productive employee, a better manager, or even a better decision-maker?
A few new recently releases studies are showing that too much work and not enough rest may actually have the adverse effect most would expect. Taking frequent breaks—and by frequent they mean within every hour—results in more focus and productivity.
Sitting in front of your computer all day and eating lunch at your desk actually increases stress and physical pain and can lead to an early death, according to one recent study. That same report says people need a mental break and need to move their muscles more frequently suggesting that stepping away for 17 minutes every 52 minutes increases productivity, according to a story on www.inc.com.
So while people where their work hours on their sleeve like a badge of honor, those that aren’t glued to their computers 24/7 are more likely to be productive. Further, working hard and being productive has less to do with how much time you actually put in and more to do with what is accomplished when you are actually working. Taking a walk, picking up a magazine or even running an errand is healthier for the body and mind.
It’s a break in office culture similar to that of working remotely. Remote employees tend to be more focused when they are working than most office employees because there are usually fewer interruptions and more planned breaks.
Another research reports shows that 10 percent of employees who work the hardest don’t actually put in more hours, according the Draugliem Group, a Latvia-based social networking company that used a time tracking application to track employees' habits.
Going completely against traditional thought, a recent study from a team of European researchers suggests that feeling guilty about being a coach potato does more harm than good and if “vegging out” is needed, do it guilt-free. “Results suggest that ego depletion may increase the risk of negatively appraising the use of interactive (video games) and non-interactive (television) entertaining media as a form of procrastination. The resulting guilt is negatively related to the recovery experience associated with using entertainment. Therefore, ego-depleted individuals may benefit less from the psychological recovery potential of entertainment media, despite their greater need for recovery,” according to the report.
The sum-sum is that if you need to take a break or relax, do it. Don’t stress about it. Previous studies have proven that vegging out can actually be highly restorative for those who are mentally exhausted but those individuals in need of some TV time are less likely to allow themselves to enjoy it. Being fully lazy is healthier than lying around and feeling like you need to be doing something else.