I was asked to give a presentation last year at a women in leadership event in Sydney about work life balance. I decided to lock in a title 'Why working less can make good business sense' before having prepared my presentation. Initially I thought the title might be too much but after preparing my presentation I was more convinced that ever that working less hours can and usually does make people more productive.
Despite all the wonderful labour savings devices and technology in our lives most of us seem to have less leisure time. Emails, Facebook, online shopping, Instagram, YouTube, you name it are all available 24/7 so it can be hard to switch off. How can we slow down and still keep up with life?
In a work sense and my personal life, I am now a firm believer 'less is more'. Fewer hours at work has made me more productive. Having more time in my personal life gives me the ability to reflect, live in the moment, feel a sense abundance and to find creative solutions to challenges. I feel more balanced, energised and prepared for my ‘paid’ job.
I was that person working long hours and getting home long after dark for many years. I got a sense of fulfilment and enjoyed my work but fell into the trap of working long hours out of habit. I was often exhausted by the time a holiday came along and several times spent the first few days of my holiday fighting a cold and sore throat.
Now I work four days instead of five. Doing less and having time to reflect, exercise and ‘just be’ is wonderful. I cannot believe how many problems I solve during my morning walks. When my head is not full of my ‘to do list’ solutions and inspiration appear. I am now a firm believer from my own experience and from managing teams, that less is more! I appreciate not everyone is in a position to work part time or less hours, but hopefully we can all find time to think, reflect and just be. I think it's bound to make us more productive and happier.
In France last year the government introduced the ‘right to disconnect’ legislation. Companies with over 50 employees have to put measures in place to allow staff to ignore emails out of normal working hours. The change aims to stop work encroaching on leisure time and to allow workers to switch off and prevent burnout.
Working long hours on a regular basis can lead to higher incidences of anxiety, errors, more sick days, loss of energy, innovation, perspective and an unhealthy culture. Problems are harder to solve when you are tired and worn out.
So if you are in the habit of working really long hours I recommend you think again. Less really is more. Try leaving work earlier along with some technology free evenings at home. Investing more time in you to promote a sense of balance is a great investment and your colleagues, boss, not to mention your family, will probably appreciate you more!