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Rest ethic: what is it, and why do we need to start cultivating one?

Rest ethic: what is it, and why do we need to start cultivating one?

We live in a society that values good, dedicated workers, where working long hours is often seen as something to be proud of. We are taught from an early age to always be busy, and we even often fill our work schedules with meetings and activities beyond our normal capacity, because we believe that this is a sign of productivity for others. In many work situations, workers would rather overcompensate (i.e. work harder) than consider their own well-being. This strong work ethic alone can lead to burnout, making it crucial to look at another concept: the rest ethic.  

With the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers in various industries are still working remotely. The pressure to be productive has never been greater, and the line between work and personal spheres has never been more blurred. When was the last time you planned and took some time off work? Taking time off (without feeling guilty) to refresh ideas, stimulate creativity, relax, and regain strength is one of the most neglected tools in the world of work. People feel increasingly overwhelmed by tasks, and with easy access to emails and apps on our smartphones, the pressure to prove we are working hard has contributed to an increase in stress, depression, and physical and mental exhaustion (Burnout). 

However, we should point out that this issue is not only due to the pandemic, which only accelerated the potential lack of work-life balance due to the sudden switch to remote work. However, this is a cultural issue: many societies fail to separate the personal and professional spheres to achieve work-life balance.   

Hard work  is not the same as productivity  

Contrary to what we are taught, just working hard doesn’t actually get you very far in what productivity is concerned. What is needed is to know how to work well, or work smart. We must know how to recognize our limits and learn how best to focus our time and effort. A worker who knows how to rest well gets restored, inspired, and returns with new ideas, which will eventually influence the work ethic, motivation, and enthusiasm. A worker who is tired and sees them disappear in no time

What is, after all, rest ethic?  

John Fitch and Max Frenzel, authors of the new book “Time Off: A Practical Guide to Building Your Rest Ethic and Finding Success Without the Stress”, define the rest ethic in a very simple and effective way:   

“Take in a deep breath and hold it. Keep holding. How long can you hold your inhale until it gets uncomfortable? Thirty seconds? A few minutes? It doesn’t take long until we all, eventually, need to exhale.

Think of your work ethic as the inhale (it is, in a way, as essential to your career as air is to your body). With a good work ethic, we make, execute, coordinate, manage, fulfill, and get things done. Task list—inhale. Project execution—inhale. Making our ideas come to life—inhale. But we can’t keep inhaling forever. Eventually we have to exhale. This exhale is your rest ethic, and it is just as essential.

A solid rest ethic gifts us inspiration, ideas, and recovery. It allows us to build up our enthusiasm and sustain our passion. Gaining a fresh perspective—exhale. Project ideation and “aha” moments—exhale. Letting big ideas incubate in your mind—exhale. And just as a deep exhale prepares you for a better inhale, your rest ethic enables you to have a better work ethic.”

In the book, the authors question the common assumption that “busy” = “productive” and offer practical solutions to help us all prioritize our “rest ethic.”   

How to develop it?  

The biggest obstacle to creating a strong rest ethic is guilt, so the most important thing to do is to not let society set an unacceptable productivity standard because many mental health problems are a consequence of the assumption that you have to keep up with it, and that’s one of the main issues that team leaders and directors around the world need to reframe. So firstly, understand the pauses are key to creative and flawless work, and it will make you more productive than ever! That’s the path to realise that as a worker, the best thing you can do is to let go of any feelings of guilt and value the time you spend doing what you enjoy, you’ll definitely be a better professional than before.   

Cultivating a rest ethic is crucial in helping professionals to be more effective and find joy in their daily lives, which naturally impacts work. From the company’s perspective, as soon as it’s realized that the employees are their best asset, and start working together towards improving their quality of life, productivity will be the consequence together with collective success.