Quite the Opposite – Your Dedication Could Be Holding Your Business Back
Maybe you’ve seen the TV car commercial where a guy actually leaves his office job at 5 p.m., earning stunned stares and quiet admiration from jealous coworkers for his ‘bravery.” Chances are, this rings pretty true for you, and for most of us in American business today. The current culture of relentless effort, ‘whatever it takes” and 24/7/365 dedication to the job does seem to make heroes of every “nose to the grindstone” gladiators, and “slackers” out of everyone else.
Business owners, managers and employees, whether they are trying to coax a startup to critical mass or make their mark in a much larger company structure, often become so driven to succeed that things like breaks, days off, and vacations become foreign concepts to them, and something to be frowned upon. But the truth is, they shouldn’t.
Brains Need a Rest, Period
I’ve done a little research on the subject and learned some interesting things. One of the most interesting was that the brain, while only 2% of your body weight, uses on average 20% of your calories. So it’s working harder than any other part of your body. While we can easily tell when our body feels fatigue or exhaustion, we aren’t as ready to recognize the same in the case of our brains, choosing to soldier on and deny it the relaxation it physically needs. The brain is like a muscle. You can strengthen it or deplete it and if you let this muscle recharge and replenish, you’ll feel better mentally and see improvements in your performance.
Research has proven that problem-solving ability and creativity are enhanced after periods of rest – the rejuvenated brain simply performs better. That’s why a multi-million dollar industry has emerged in which strategic “coaches” are helping entrepreneurs and other executives strike the right balance in their lives. As it turns out the goals of a happy and fulfilled personal life and a successful business are certainly not in conflict. In fact, both are more likely to be achieved when time off work, within the business day as well as longer breaks over the course of a year, are consciously factored into the equation.
Success Comes With (Less) Hard Work
Take John Gassman, for example. The CEO of Gassman Financial Group acknowledges that he was an over-committed workaholic, putting in long hours and taking, at best, a one week vacation each year. And even that week, he says, was spent keeping in constant touch with the office and its pending issues. After working with a coach, Gassman has learned the importance of recharging and has incorporated free time into his schedule. He now takes up to six weeks off each year, and his own income, and the success of his company, have increased dramatically.
What would explain this phenomenon? It’s easy to attribute this simply to “burnout” and the need to recharge your proverbial batteries. But what does that really mean to your body? I discovered a more scientific answer.
Why A Rested Brain Provides Better Solutions
It seems that when you are stressed from overwork, or focus on one problem for a long period without a break, your mind works in an increasingly narrow range, involving only one or two regions in a desperate attempt to deal with the challenge. When you take a break, your brain eases up, and other components of your brain come into play. That allows you to use more of your brain’s capability to come up with a solution, with input from one or more of those previously untapped sectors. And the best answer may well be lurking in one of those other places.
Certainly these principles apply to all employees, as well. Studies have shown that employees are more productive when afforded generous time-off policies, and latitude in how that time off is used; not only for vacation and paid holidays and sick days, but also for dealing with those unplanned family and outside-of-work responsibilities.
Have a Plan – and Track It
With so many different individuals and philosophies involved, it is mandatory that even the most generous policy be carefully tracked and evaluated so that every employee is treated fairly and no resentment is created by those who might abuse the flexibility. But there is little question the effort is worth it. Employees who feel that the company has genuine concern for their work/life balance are more likely to be loyal to the company and its goals, show lower stress, and demonstrate higher productivity.
It’s a very interesting issue and I’d really like to hear how you feel about it in the comments. Don’t tell me you’re too busy, but I’ll understand if you’re taking a break!