All Work and No Play Makes Us Dull and Less Productive. We Need Breaks and Leisure — Even Research Says So.

By Amanda Warren

As defined by, the “Point of Diminishing Returns” is defined as “Input quantity at which a marginal product is maximized and beyond which it declines.” When people are the product, this means when we work without taking breaks, the quality and quantity of our work will decline.  Some people refer to this as “burnout.”  Most people eventually experience burnout from working too many hours or days in a row without taking a break.  It’s not healthy for anyone’s body, mind, or spirit.

Taking breaks from work – however one wishes to define “work” – is essential for good health.  Experts from Home Leisure Direct offer many options to take your mind off work and even find a new hobby or skill. And, as it turns out, the necessity of finding leisure in one’s life is being increasingly studied. Some of these studies have concluded that our lives literally may depend on working less. And, yet, it still confers benefits to employers concerned about their bottom line.

[A]ll the evidence is that long hours are bad for health and ultimately productivity. Workers working long hours are more likely to have a heart attack, suffer a stroke, and experience depression. Coming to work ill is also likely to make you feel more ill. And could make others around you ill.

Recent research from the US suggests that toxic workplaces (excessive hours, stressful work regimes) are a public health disaster. These workplaces have been shown to shorten lives – they are literally killing workers.

The alternative is for employers to reorganise work. Evidence suggests shorter work hours can boost health and productivity, providing potential win-win outcomes for employers and workers. (Source)

A 2011 article from, provides some historical context that seems to have been forgotten, particularly in the United States:

Throughout his life, Henry Ford ran a lot of productivity experiments to determine how to get the highest dollar value out of his production line and his employees. In an interview in 1926, Henry Ford concluded that forty hours a week is the optimum number of hours for employees. What he found is that when people work more than 40 hours, the output per employee starts to decline. Ford knew of the law of diminishing returns and he used that to his advantage for maximum productivity.

Of course, some employers aren’t so enlightened and instead take advantage of employees – especially inexperienced ones – by overworking them without understanding that this actually damages their own business.  I had a friend who worked in a fast food stand at an amusement park for 2 summers.  She began her first summer as a minor, and the law required that she not work more than 8 hours with some kind of break every few hours.  During her second summer, she turned 18 and the managers started putting her on 12- to 14-hour shifts.  She was given one 30-minute break, and that was usually it.  Many employees quit, which of course left more hours to cover for the remaining employees like herself.  She was so burned out that even while sleeping she had dreams about being at work.

It can be even worse with jobs that aren’t physical.  Despite many promises made that we were heading toward a life of more leisure that would be driven by technological advancement, evidence points to a different reality. Digital technologies have created an “always on” mode, whether it be 24/7 e-mails we feel obligated to respond to from work or friends, or simply the ever-present distractions provided by a smartphone that has nearly become part of the human body for many people.  With all of the world’s information at our fingertips and the means to share that information with others, even our downtime can feel like work these days.

Naturally, not everyone has the type of job where they can negotiate for a completely new work environment. In that case, we need to do our best to increase our personal organization and efficiency so that we can at least reduce the elements of stress that remain within our control. Here are 10 work productivity hacks that can ensure your day feels more leisurely while at work, and will help you be more rested when you return to your real leisure time at home.

Image credit: Pixabay

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