We’ve become conditioned in the west to think that working hard means clocking up more hours than the person in the next cubicle. You’re contracted for 40 hours but you’re a slacker if you only do 40 hours. We believe that the longer we work, the harder we work. But recent studies suggest we are not taking enough time off.
There are even health risks with working longer hours both physical and mental. Some are even calling for a 4-day working week, citing recent reports about the benefits of doing so. The evidence is so compelling that some political parties and worker groups are suggesting we move to a 4-day working week permanently.
It may seem a pipe dream or pie in the sky or any number of cliches here, but there remains a possibility that we will indeed, one day move to a 4-day working week. Oh sure, there are arguments against it but these would have been the same arguments that Victorian industrialists would have used in the 19th century to challenge calls to move to a 5-day rather than a 5.5-day working week.
The fact is, we are all working longer than ever before with greater expectations placed on us. But for us freelancers, that pressure only comes from within. We are reportedly happier and more productive than our employed-by-somebody-else acquaintances. Our productivity and our rest time are within our hands and we’re not using it enough.
Here are several reasons why freelancers should take a random day off from time to time when workload suits.
It’s Good for Productivity
Yes, it is. We work on what employment gurus and inspiration and productivity coaching types might call ROWE – Results Only Work Environment. We get paid for the amount of work we actually do. It’s too easy to get bogged down in another paying contract to push towards another good month and disconnecting can be difficult; freelancer burnout is a constant threat. It’s a well-known fact that people need time off to recharge. It’s why employers are legally mandated to offer paid holiday time. We need to withdraw so we come back refreshed.
It’s Good for Organisational Skills
When I know I can schedule an impromptu day off, it makes me organise my time better to work towards the reward. For example, if I have 20 hours of work, it’s quite reasonable to expect I can get that work done in 4 days. A typical working week for me is between 20 and 25 hours plus any extra time for curve balls or changes to existing work. Finishing on a Friday having organised my time efficiently is a great reward in itself.
It’s Good For Mental Health
Stress is a growing problem for employees everywhere because we’re too focused on making money and not enough on doing things that help us disconnect. When we’re consumed with our work it can raise blood pressure and lead to long-term illness and even cause strokes. We are facing a health crisis in the west because of our addiction to working. Taking a day off is a form of pampering; the occasional pamper is good for us.
A Special Note: Disconnect Properly
When I take a day off I make sure I go for a long run – 5 miles typically (using my favourite beach route here in Cornwall), play some video games and get some sunshine. I do my best not to stay inside which is why my usual method of disconnecting during the day (Netflix) tends to be off the table. What you need on an impromptu day off is a break from the routine.