Work Hard, Play Harder! An Excerpt from Harmonize Your Life: A Journey Toward Self Care

Recent studies on American work life reveal that Americans work longer hours than most countries. Statistics show that U.S. citizens work 137 hours per year more than Japan, 260 per year more than the UK and 500 per year more than the France. At least 134 countries have laws that regulate the maximum hours its’ citizens are allowed to work during the week. 

However, America has no such laws. In fact, data from the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal the following: 

  • In the United States 85.8% of males and 66.5% of females work more than 40 hours per week. 

  • The average productivity per American workers has increased 400% since 1950. 

  • There is not a federal law requiring paid sick days in the United States. 

  • The U.S. remains the only industrialized country in the world that has no legally mandated annual leave. 

  • In every country included except Canada and Japan (and the U.S., which averages 13 days/per year), workers get at least 20 paid vacation days. 

In France and Finland, workers earn 30 days– an entire month off, paid, every year. American labor trends show that American workers leave more sick time, leave time and vacations on the table at the end of the calendar year. This has resulted in an increase in work related stress and health problems. Additionally, American workers often report having less quality of life, decreased life satisfaction and struggles to find life/work balance or harmony. 

Every profession has occupational hazards that we must cleverly avoid to ensure that we do not succumb to its perils. All workers, pastors, police officers, politicians, business owners, corporate executives and employees must recognize their human limitations. The impact of too much work will result in  high levels of stress. This will harm our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual well-being. 

A popular slogan encourages people to balance work with play. It says, “Work Hard/Play Hard.” I will take it a little further and encourage us to Work Hard/Play Harder! Take yourself back to grade school and watch yourself running around the playground at recess. Remember how it made you feel to be outdoors experiencing the freedom of the open air. Recess often came in the afternoon after a morning of classroom work. It would often include a snack and it always included other children to play with and enjoy. 

Like recess, inserting play into our work life, give us energy necessary to make it to the end of the work day, week, month and year. I suggest, it takes twice as much play to balance the effects of hard work. Here are some practical steps you and I can take: 

  • Discover what you enjoy doing after work. 

  • Make a commitment to doing what you enjoy after work. 

  • Spend time with people you enjoy after work. 

  • Move toward working fewer hours in the week, month and year. 

  • Take scheduled and spontaneous days off work. 

  • Take at least 2-4 weeks off work each year. (You will more likely take a week vacation quarterly than entire month.) 

  • Take your paid leave time. 

  • Take maternity and paternity leave. 

  • Take your sick time as needed. 

  • Take family medical leave as needed. 

  • Plan and take vacations with your family, friends and alone. 

  • Do something fun daily, weekly, monthly and yearly. 

  • Do something fun that reminds you of your childhood recess time. 

  • Make a date with yourself. 

  • Keep your date with yourself 

  • Learn to laugh at yourself and others. 

  • Work Hard and Play Harder!    

Implement these and other Self-Care strategies found in my book, Harmonize Your Life: A Journey Toward Self Care and have a playful and safe summer…😎

Dr. Toni

Ebony Steiner