With summer break coming up soon, it'll be a mental breath of fresh air — at least, it's supposed to be.
Unfortunately, as many of us know too well, just because we’re on a scheduled break doesn’t necessarily mean that we stop working.
Approximately 30 percent of full-time employees report working weekends and holidays, according to a 2018 American Time Use survey. And I’d be curious to know how many people, in this remote school and work setting, are working more than they’re supposed to.
I’ve heard many friends and classmates talk about all of the work they need to do or catch up on during the weeks we're supposed to have off. Instead of being excited about a break, they dread all the work they must do over it.
Last week, I avoided doing school work until the very last minute. Did I have an essay due Monday that I started Sunday at 8 p.m.? Maybe. Now, I don’t mean to flex my ability to procrastinate (this procrastination problem sort of comes with the territory of being a recovering perfectionist), but I’m oddly proud of the fact that I've still managed to have a few real breaks.
During this past spring break, I let loose. I went on walks at the park, watched "Bridgerton" with my friend, got owned while playing basketball with my sister, read a new all-time favorite book ("These Violent Delights" by Chloe Gong, in case you were curious) and tried to get out of the house once a day.
For someone who has gone days without leaving the house, nearly getting sunburned at the park felt like a victory. And although doing my essay early would’ve been the more practical choice, I opted to watch a movie with my parents instead.
I don’t know if the choices I made were the right ones, but they felt right to me. In a society that's so obsessed with productivity and efficiency, I want to avoid figuring out the value of taking a break the hard way.
So why do we push ourselves so hard in school or at work?
One possible explanation is that we attach our self-worth and emotional state to what we can achieve in the day. "We log too many hours (due to) a mix of inner drivers, like ambition, machismo, greed, anxiety, guilt, enjoyment, pride, the pull of short-term rewards, a desire to prove we’re important or an overdeveloped sense of duty," according to the Harvard Business Review.
Regardless of these internal drivers, there’s a large body of research that suggests overworking doesn't actually lead to equal output. It was found that managers couldn't distinguish between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who did not, according to a study done on consultants by Erin Reid, a professor at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business.
Research has shown that working weekends and holidays undermines intrinsic motivation, one of the most important factors in determining whether people persist in their work. Working during leisure time causes conflict between personal and professional goals, which can actually lead us to resent our work.
Along with loss of motivation, overworking can have serious ramifications on one’s health and well-being. If I can offer a piece of unsolicited advice, it would be to stop bragging about how much you’re overworking yourself. Sacrificing sleep, substituting unhealthy options for healthy meals and neglecting stress management take a huge toll on your body, which are not things that are worth showing off.
People working more than 55 hours per week had a 13 percent greater risk of a heart attack and were 33 percent more likely to suffer a stroke, compared with those who worked 35-40 hours per week, according to a study by the Harvard Medical School.
Blinded by our ambitions to fulfill our dreams, we often neglect ourselves. But, as important as my professional goals are, they aren’t worth my health. They aren’t worth me.