In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy the answer to all things is 42, apparently. I think it’s 55 (at least when it comes to how hard I should work), here is why:
The Whitehall 2 longitudinal study of 2 123 civil servants found that the likelihood of a major depressive episode was 2.43 times higher for those working more than 11 hours a day compared to employees working 7–8 hours a day.
Gallup’s global data show that people can enjoy a full 40-hour work week, and for some cases up to 55 hours per week, while those who do not get to use their strengths get burned out after just 20 hours of work per week!
A lot has been made of the 10 000 hour concept and its centrality to success. A lesser known insight is that the second most important variable that came out of the original study by K. Anders Ericssons (based on violinists) was that the amount of sleep differentiated the best from the good violinists. The best were sleeping 8.5 hours in a 24 hour period, 1 hour longer than the average violinists, and 2 hours and 48 minutes vs. 2 hours napping in the afternoon over the week.
So it would seem that for a sustainable quality life you need to embrace the concept of oscillation, i.e., work hard, but relax hard too. If you are only working hard you might want to check if you are a workaholic by taking the Bergen Work Addiction Scale:
Look at each of the following statements and rank yourself on each one according to the following:
1 = Never, 2 = Rarely, 3 = Sometimes, 4 = Often and 5 = Always
- You think of how you can free up more time to work
- You spend much more time working than initially intended
- You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression
- You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them
- You become stressed if you are prohibited from working
- You prioritise work over hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise
- You work so much it has negatively influenced your health
If you score 4 (Often) or 5 (Always) on four or more of these seven statements it may suggest you are a workaholic.
It seems the adage “hard work never killed anyone” is wrong, but we know for greatness you will need to put in the hard yards and hopefully be blessed with some quality genetic code.
Dr. Mark Orpen-Lyall, Director at HumanReturn was awarded a PhD for his research focusing on developing individuals resilience capabilities. He has been since 2000 a registered Industrial and Organisational Psychologist with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA).