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Why the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic is making you ill

Posted: 1st October 2021

Over the years, the phrase ‘work hard, play hard’ has become increasingly common and is often mentioned by ambitious workers who want to reach the top while enjoying a socially active life at the same time. Social media certainly has a role to play in this kind of ethic as there is a constant need for people, particularly of the younger generations, to appear that they have it all.

A study by Lonnie W Aarssen and Laura Crimi, published in The Open Psychology Journal in 2016, tested the theory of ‘work hard, play hard’. The results found ‘a conspicuous association between desire to work hard and desire to play hard’.

And these kinds of pressures can be extremely damaging to our mental and physical health as we over-exert ourselves both in and outside of work to present the illusion of having the perfect life. When we burn the candle at both ends, we could find ourselves suffering from a range of mental, emotional and physical disorders such as:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Headaches
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion

In the long run, the ‘work hard, play hard’ ethic is not only bad for the company you work for but it’s also damaging to your health.

How can we have it all?

For those of you who still want to have it all: the high-profile job; the impressive bank balance; and the enviable social life, you can have all of this but be aware, it usually comes at a cost to your health and wellbeing. At some point in the future, something has got to give, so whether you cut back on your working hours or take a night off from the social scene, you need to make time for the simple things that let you recharge your batteries and avoid burnout.

  1. Take a holiday and totally switch off.It’s so important to get away from it all, whether it’s to an exotic location or even somewhere closer to home where you can escape the rat race and party scene. Make sure you turn on your out-of-office message so that you’re not disturbed and try to resist the urge to party all night just so that you can post your photos to social media.
  2. Know your breaking point and take a break before you reach it.Taking a break can take the form of many activities such as a walk among nature, 15 minutes of mindful meditation, or even getting lost in a great book. Just make sure whatever you choose to do, you aren’t thinking about work.
  3. Take a nap.You don’t have to be of a certain age to enjoy a cat nap and even a 20-minute snooze can replenish your energy levels and refresh the brain. Try not to sleep for much longer than this as it could affect your sleep patterns at night.
  4. Do some exercise. You might be thinking that exercise will make you even more tired, but a study published by Science Dailyshowed that regular exercise reduces fatigue and increases energy levels.


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Business Comment

Business Comment is the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce’s bi-monthly magazine. It provides insight on Edinburgh’s vibrant business community, with features on the city’s key sectors, interviews with leading figures and news on new business developments in the capital.
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