Work hard, rest hard

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Rebecca Barkdoll, Opinion Editor

As the semester hits its busiest period, I can’t help but think about our society’s attitude towards hard work and productivity. Often, we act like work ought to be our top priority, while trying to juggle relationships and hobbies on the side. But should we really give it as much importance as we do? Perhaps not.

Of course, any time a question like that is broached, one of the most common arguments is: “You have to work if you want to eat!” That’s true. Right now, lots of people work long hours to make ends meet and to suggest they cut back on their hours requires a whole different discussion that revolves around minimum wages, the wage gap, and how we as a society perceive poverty. This is not that article.

If we set aside those aspects and look at it from another perspective, there seems to be this tendency that long to-do lists are the norm and working overtime, or off the clock, is expected. This is sometimes a subtle trait, but I’ve heard of—and seen—enough instances of this that it makes me wonder.

Why do we not even blink when we hear that college students are forgoing sleep in order to get passing grades and make ends meet? Why do we tend to assume that it’s alright for people in low-income households to work three or four jobs to take care of their families? Why do teachers think that elementary and middle school students can handle the stress of enough homework to keep them from other activities that could possibly increase their development?

Well, some of the responses that are commonly heard can either be summed up as “they need to learn a work ethic” or “if they’re poor, they’re lazy.” See the common theme? Work is the end-all-be-all and it doesn’t need to be.

No parent should spend so much time away from their kids just because no one wants to admit that a lack of willingness to work is not what makes them poor, horrible wages are. No student, of any age, should have to sacrifice a necessary function to their health like sleep just because teachers and bosses both demand more than should be expected. No person’s worth should be judged by how much busy-work they have or have not done.

But, some may argue, what happens to society if people stop working? Well, first, choosing to prioritize other things over work isn’t the same as not working altogether, and to make that assumption is a bit extreme. There’s usually at least a few people interested or willing to do most jobs, and the few that nobody wants to do are usually filled anyway out of desperation.

What not prioritizing work as a society will do is make it easier to spend time with family and friends, take time for mental or physical health needs or spend it on relaxing hobbies—some of which could benefit society in a number of ways. This means society as a whole will be more relaxed, more connected with others, and healthier than ever. These results make it more likely that any work they do will be more productive for that rest time.

So next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything you need to do and you feel guilty for even considering taking a break or for backing out of certain responsibilities, just remember that a healthy, productive society works much better with members who know and respect not only their own limits but the limits of others.

*Note: This article ran April 4