Science Shows You Need to Work Less — Here's Why


Have you heard about the new labor laws in France? They've limited when employees can receive and respond to work-related emails, hoping to give most workers more true leisure time. And then there's the six-hour work days in Sweden. To anyone who doesn't have those job perks, they sound like a dream. (See also: America Is the No Vacation Nation)

As it turns out, we might dream about working less because it would be good for us, and even good for our work and the planet. Wondering how to pitch a shorter work week to your boss? Read on for three killer arguments.

Working Less Keeps Your Brain in Top Shape

As it turns out, human beings can't sustain high levels of focus and energy and, when they try to do so, they sacrifice creativity and innovation. In today's marketplace, creativity and innovation are of particularly high value. Thus, if you want to succeed in your chosen career path, it's probably worthwhile to think about the different ways you can work less.

Get Flexible

Working fewer hours is the most obvious way to get your brain a break. If you can't move to Sweden and your job doesn't offer any sort of flex time, you might consider looking into a company that offers ultraflex jobs. These companies allow employees, at least those in certain positions, to choose their own hours and, sometimes, even the location where their work gets done. Workers still have to fulfill their roles, but they can figure out how to do that on their own.

Take More Breaks

Consider taking more breaks at your job. Choose a longer period of time, usually 30-90 minutes, to focus on work, and then take a 5-15 minute break. Set an alarm to get started, work until it is done, and then set it again for your break. Keep following this pattern until your workday is complete.

Some companies don't encourage employees to take extra breaks. If this is the case for you, try taking shorter breaks and either going to the bathroom (stretching your legs will do you good) or finding some quick exercises you can do. (See also: 11 Things You Can Do During Your Lunch Break to Change Your Life)

Working Less Increases Productivity

Working less not only helps improve your creativity, but it also makes you more productive. Even if your current job doesn't involve putting old ideas together in new ways, you will benefit from figuring out how to work less, because it will help you get more done and to do your tasks more efficiently. (See also: The 5 Best Ways to Work Smarter, Not Harder)

Working Shorter Means Working Smarter

No one is quite sure how working less helps make you more productive, but the link seems to persist throughout the studies. It is likely connected to the tie between working less and creativity. In fact, it seems that, while the human brain does focus well, it doesn't function best when it focuses on the same types of tasks for long periods of time.

Break Up Tasks

If you can't actually work less, try breaking your tasks up by type. For instance, you may have several tasks that involve focused computer work, several that involve meeting with others, and a few that require you to evaluate other employees. Instead of attacking these as they come up, try planning to spend sections of your day on each type of task. (See also: 10 Weird Ways to Get Things Done That Might Work For You)

Scheduling your day like this allows your brain to do different things, even if it's all considered "work." This can help you be more productive, because each set of tasks gives your brain a break from the other types.

Working Less Is Better for the Earth

If becoming more creative and more productive aren't enough motivation for you to consider working less, think about this: People who work less rely less on disposable, consumable products.

It makes sense. Do you grab fast food on the way home because you worked late and you don't want to have to think about dinner when you get home? Do you use disposable diapers or drink bottled water because you simply don't have the time or the head space to use anything else, because your days and your mind are filled with work?

You can also think about this a different way. Would you make more stuff for yourself (and your friends and family) if you weren't working so much? I went to a baby shower recently where a friend of mine was lamenting her gift. "I started knitting a blanket," she said, "but it's tax season and I didn't have time to finish." Instead of the blanket, she gave a gift that included disposable bottles of baby shampoo, lotion, and so on. If only she'd had more time!

Other people might not make blankets, but they'd love to make dinner instead of picking it up. Still others would take the time to grow their own vegetables, so they wouldn't have to buy them. And some would make their own hand soap, shampoo, detergent, and more, thus choosing to spend their time on these things, rather than their money. (See also: 16 Everyday Things You Can Make at Home)

It's easy to feel like these are small things that don't matter very much. But if everyone had even a few extra hours a week and spent even a fraction of that time making their own things rather than buying them, the world would be a healthier place. We can't make those changes, though, if we don't have the time, and we won't have the time if we keep working the way we are now.

So think about it. Working less is good for you. It's good for the world. It's even good for your employer. If at all possible, think up ways you can work less today. If it's not possible at your current job, think about finding one where it is.

Have you cut your working hours? What benefits did you reap? Please take a moment out of your busy schedule and share in comments!

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