Forget the cult of being busy, research shows that if you take things slower at work you’ll be happier and healthier – and more likely to get promotions, too
Maybe Ronald Reagan had it right. “It’s true hard work never killed anybody, but I figure, why take the chance?” the late US president once quipped.
Tell that to Elon Musk. In 2017, the billionaire chief executive of electric car-maker Tesla admitted to working 120 hours a week, insisting it was the only way his company would prosper. Reagan won the cold war, while Tesla’s battles seem endless. A lazy victory for a more relaxed work attitude? Probably so, actually.
Make your work work better for you – from dealing with pesky colleagues to taking the perfect break and doing less for more money
In the modern work world, if you want to get on, you seemingly need to go full-on Elon. You must optimise productivity by skipping lunch and field emails in the evening and at the weekend. Busyness has become a powerful status symbol. In 2017, Silvia Belleza at Columbia Business School in New York and her colleagues asked volunteers in the US to assess the status of fictional individuals from short descriptions. Anything indicating the person was extremely busy resulted in higher estimations of the person’s importance and achievements.
Intriguingly, Belleza did the same thing with an Italian group, and found the effect reversed. And in fact the Italian concept of dolce far niente – “sweet doing nothing” – seems to be the winners’ formula. In 2018, Argyro Avgoustaki at ESCP Europe in Paris and Hans Frankort at Cass Business School in London examined data from some 52,000 employees across Europe. They found that people …