From taking lunch breaks to digital sabbaticals, one key to success at work seems to be to stop working so much. For many of us, breaks for the sake of productivity provide the perfect excuse to be our lazy selves.
But for the work obsessed, the suggestion of easing up doesn’t, well, work. Still, with a growing body of research to back it up, the benefits of stepping away from the drudgery of day-to-day tasks are hard to deny. So what’s a workaholic to do?
Ruzwana Bashir, cofounder and CEO of travel startup Peek.com, when prompted, says she falls closer to the workaholic end of the work-life balance spectrum. Although she qualifies it: “It’s a lot easier to do that when you really enjoy your job,” she told Fast Company. “I think it would be a workaholic with a positive spin on it.”
Bashir, however, balances her work obsession by engineering breaks (of sorts) into her day, hoping to reap the benefits of respite without actually getting away from her job.
This doesn’t work for all types of meetings, but depending on the person and the subject matter, Bashir tries to take some of her meetings on the go. Peek’s offices happen to sit right on the San Francisco waterfront, making the outdoors an enticing prospect for meetings year-round. But even a walk around the building will do the trick. “A lot of psychology studies show that walking alongside each other can help build bonds; being in an environment outside the office can be healthy,” Bashir says.
Indeed, studies have shown that walking doesn’t interfere with concentration and boosts creativity. Plus Bashir still gets to go outside but doesn’t have to take a break from her job.
Bashir works on Sundays. To her credit, she tries to do it anywhere but the office. “Putting yourself in different environments can be quite healthy for getting a different perspective,” she said. Last Sunday, for example, she perched in a favorite Bay Area tea shop.
Sure, there is plenty of debate about the benefits of working from home. One study says office face time is a myth, while another found the rate of promotion dropped 50% for people who worked from home. But on Sundays all of that is moot, since theoretically most people aren’t in the office.
Instead, Bashir can reap the benefits of working from home, such as the increase in productivity. This setup helps her think about bigger picture ideas outside of day-to-day execution. “The problem with the work environments that we live in is that email ends up forcing you into being very reactive,” she said. “You end up working on things that feel urgent, but you never tackle the things that you think are important.”
Bashir insists that she takes Saturdays off. “I had a tendency to work every day,” she admitted. “The challenge with that is it doesn’t give you a lot of time for reflection and introspection.”
Her version of not working means trying her hardest not to check email and spending the day doing something inspiring. “I will try and go outdoors, maybe I’ll go on a hike,” she said. “I’ll try and do activities.” For some that would constitute a break, but for Bashir it still counts as research for Peek. Peek is a virtual guidebook for popular destinations, a one-stop shop for “amazing activities, tours, and more.” When Bashir goes on a hot air balloon ride for her day off, like she did last weekend, she’s also doing recon for the site.
Warby Parker has book clubs; Peek has Thursday Peeknics, which is essentially a lunchtime speaker series that sometimes happens outside. Entrepreneurs from around the Bay Area, such as Jack Dorsey, come and speak about successes and challenges. “We realized that these incredible people in our network, who loved what we were doing, might be able to come in to talk to us about our experiences and shed light on their own experiences,” explained Bashir.
In addition, much like the company-wide book clubs at Warby Parker, Peeknics facilitate teamwork. “Human relationships we have within the company have a powerful impact on how we can grow,” says Bashir. “Everyone is able to push each other to be the best.”