At 1 Million for Work Flexibility, we advocate for rethinking where, when, and how work gets done so that it's no longer bound by traditional rules. That means acknowledging that instead of taking place in an office, work can happen anywhere. Instead of taking place Monday through Friday between the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., work can happen any time. We know that this type of flexibility is good for both employers and employees. It allows workers to better juggle their personal needs with their professional responsibilities, leading to greater work-life satisfaction, boosted morale, and higher productivity -- a win-win on both sides.
But flexibility can also be a double-edged sword, because when work can happen anywhere and anytime, we lose our shut-off switch. It's no longer possible to just walk out the office door and leave work behind. From a business perspective, it may be tempting to rejoice at the notion that through flexibility, employees could be better positioned to work all the time. Surely if eight hours of work a day is good, then 10, or 12, or more hours must be better?
In fact though, more is not better when it comes to work. Here are five reasons why:
Our brains need rest to be productive.
It makes intuitive sense that our brains can't work at full throttle for hours on end. And anyone who's ever solved a problem knows that the best solutions often present themselves when you've stopped looking for them. But there's also evidence that downtime is critical at a cellular level: our neurons become fatigued over time and literally require sleep to re-energize.
Frenetic work schedules are unsustainable.
Although certain industries wear their grueling work schedules as a badge of honor, the truth is that over time, long hours not only cause insomnia, pain, anxiety, and addictions, but also a decline in creativity and ethical sensitivity.
Experience breeds efficiency.
Just because it looks like someone is working hard doesn't mean they are accomplishing more. In fact, the more skilled a person is at doing their job, the less time it will take them to do it.
Big talent can come in small packages.
Mothers with infant children are more educated than ever before. And yet, 43 percent of women with children leave their jobs for some period of time, in part because their options are limited to full-time or no-time. Expanding access to part-time positions could open the talent pool to include not only these moms but also caregivers of aging parents and others who have limited availability but significant expertise.
Workers are people, not robots.
We all have lives outside of work, and there's no sense in pretending that we don't. Taking breaks -- short, long, and everything in between -- ensures we are healthier both mentally and physically, happier, more creative, more collaborative, and more satisfied with our work.
As we advocate for new ways to work, the 1 Million for Work Flexibility movement is pleased to collaborate with Take Back Your Time to promote the message that time for resting and recharging is a critical component of a healthy and productive workplace.
Emma Plumb is the director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility, a national initiative advocating for widespread adoption of work flexibility.