Why “work hard, play hard” is stupid advice

Let’s look at the numbers.

  • There are 168 hours in a week.
  • We work 40 hours (on average).
  • We sleep 49 hours (assuming 7 hours/night).
  • We commute 5 hours (assuming 30 mins each way).
  • We have 74 hours left to do anything else.

Seventy-four hours. This means we have time for ourselves only 3 out of 7 days a week.

That’s 42% of our life.

Out of an average of 50 working years we would only spend 21 years doing things outside our office. And I’m not even considering all those things you need to do, but you don’t enjoy doing, outside working hours (e.g. filing tax returns, going to the doctor, having arguments).

We try to trick ourselves into sustaining this lifestyle by applying the mindset “work hard, play hard” which translates into “because we waste so much time in the office it’s better to cram as much fun as possible in the remaining hours” which, in turn, leads to people getting drunk, abusing all sorts of drugs, visiting a therapist twice a week, complaining (or even dying) because of stress etc.

There are two solutions to this problem: work a job you actually enjoy all, or most of the, 40 working hours in the week (very unlikely) or work part time (as it happens in some northern European countries). Another alternative (that cannot be applied to all jobs) is to work remotely.

In most remote-first businesses the approach is result-oriented. This means that nobody is forcing you to sit in front of your computer N hours a day, nobody is getting mad if you take a nap, nobody is questioning your productivity if you decide to take a couple of hours in the middle of the day to go to the gym.

The amount of hours you spend “working” is irrelevant.

What matters is you get things done. You don’t miss deadlines. You are available when colleagues need you. That’s it. You are your own manager. Do not get fooled by “remote-first” workplaces that ask you to install some screenshot-taking piece of software to make sure you are working around the clock. That’s not a job, that’s a scam.

Pieter Levels is an advocate of this kind of work (even though more on the entrepreneurial side), I highly suggest you take a look at his blog and his creations.

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