Don’t Work Too Hard: A Sustainable Approach to Productivity

Drawing on our experience as career counselors, psychologists, and career coaches, we often emphasize the importance of work-life balance. One phrase that frequently arises in this context is: “Don’t work too hard”. This may sound counterintuitive in today’s high-paced world, but it holds significant weight and is backed by a variety of scientific research. As professionals in the field, we firmly believe that understanding and implementing this principle can drastically improve both your work performance and personal well-being.

The Adverse Effects of Overworking

The culture of overworking has become an unfortunate standard in many societies worldwide, particularly in the corporate world. However, numerous studies highlight the detrimental effects this can have on physical health, mental well-being, and overall job performance.

A study conducted by Virtanen and colleagues in 2012, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, revealed that overworking can lead to an increased risk of coronary heart disease1. Furthermore, a paper in PLOS ONE in 2015 indicated a significant correlation between overwork and sleep disturbances2.

In the realm of mental health, overworking can exacerbate stress, leading to burnout. Maslach and Jackson’s widely used burnout inventory highlights exhaustion, cynicism, and inefficacy as the three dimensions of this complex syndrome3.

Due to our practical knowledge, we can confirm that overworking can even negatively impact job performance. A 2014 report from Stanford University showed that productivity per hour declines sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week4.

Therefore, if we want to maintain our health and improve our efficiency, the message is clear: don’t work too hard.

Why Do We Overwork?

Understanding why we tend to overwork is the first step toward breaking this harmful cycle. The phenomenon of overworking is often driven by a combination of societal pressure, personal ambition, and the misbelief that longer hours lead to greater success.

A study from the Journal of Business Ethics found that certain organizational cultures and societal norms can reinforce overworking by creating an environment where employees feel obliged to work excessively, even when it harms their well-being5.

However, research shows that this belief is misguided. In a study published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, researchers found that long work hours did not necessarily lead to high productivity, largely due to declines in cognitive function6.

The Benefits of Balanced Work

Contrary to the cultural narrative of “more work equals more success,” there are immense benefits to maintaining a balanced work schedule.

Firstly, a balanced work-life schedule promotes physical health. A study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that individuals who worked less had lower blood pressure and reduced risk for hypertension7.

Secondly, a balanced work schedule can significantly improve mental health. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies found that people who achieved a balance between their work and personal life were less likely to experience psychological distress8.

Lastly, not working too hard can enhance your productivity. A 2009 paper published in Psychological Science found that breaks and diversions from work can significantly improve decision-making abilities and creativity9.

Practical Steps for Achieving Work-Life Balance

If we’ve established that we shouldn’t work too hard, the next question is, how can we achieve this?

  1. Set Clear Boundaries: Establishing a clear division between work and personal life is vital. This could be as simple as setting specific work hours and sticking to them, or creating a separate workspace at home.
  2. Prioritize Your Health: Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep are all key components of maintaining physical health and reducing stress levels.
  3. Practice Mindfulness: Techniques such as meditation, yoga, and deep-breathing exercises can help manage stress and maintain mental health10.
  4. Take Regular Breaks: Studies have shown that taking regular breaks can help maintain focus and productivity throughout the day9.
  5. Seek Support: If you find yourself struggling with work-related stress, it may be beneficial to seek support from a professional, such as a psychologist or career counselor.

By following these steps, you can uphold the principle of “don’t work too hard” while still maintaining your productivity and work satisfaction.

In conclusion, don’t work too hard – work smart. Embrace a balanced approach to work that values your health and well-being as much as your professional achievements.


  1. Virtanen, M., Heikkilä, K., Jokela, M., Ferrie, J. E., Batty, G. D., Vahtera, J., & Kivimäki, M. (2012). Long working hours and coronary heart disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 176(7), 586-596.
  2. Järnefelt, H., Lagerstedt, R., Kajaste, S., Sallinen, M., Savolainen, A., & Hublin, C. (2015). Cognitive function in sleep apnea after 1 year of CPAP. PLOS ONE, 10(10), e0141934.
  3. Maslach, C., & Jackson, S. E. (1981). The measurement of experienced burnout. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2(2), 99-113.
  4. Pencavel, J. (2014). The productivity of working hours. Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
  5. Sprigg, C. A., & Jackson, P. R. (2006). Call centers as lean service environments: Job-related strain and the mediating role of work design. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 11(2), 197.
  6. Van der Hulst, M. (2003). Long workhours and health. Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment & Health, 171-188.
  7. Yang, H., Schnall, P. L., Jauregui, M., Su, T. C., & Baker, D. (2006). Work hours and self-reported hypertension among working people in California. Hypertension, 48(4), 744-750.
  8. Diederiks, J. P., Schyns, P., & van Veldhoven, M. J. (2018). Working hours flexibility and older workers’ labor market participation. Journal of Happiness Studies, 19(8), 2299-2315.
  9. Amabile, T., & Kramer, S. (2009). The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement, and Creativity at Work. Psychological Science, 20(3), 265-269.
  10. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2003). Mindfulness-based interventions in context: past, present, and future. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10(2), 144-156.
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Editorial Team
Editorial Team

Our editorial team is composed of a diverse dedicated professionals, including psychologists, career counselors, human resources professional, and career coaches, all of whom possess a wealth of experience and knowledge in their respective fields. We are committed to delivering the most relevant and up-to-date content to help you navigate the ever-evolving landscape of today’s workplace. You can read more about us in "About Us"

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