Study Finds that Predictable, Required Time Off Reaps Big Benefits

October 19, 2009 (Updated Jun 29, 2019) by — Intended Audience: .

I recently came across an article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ)1 that makes for an interesting follow-up to my post last month about the importance and difficulty of Sabbath rest.2 The article looks at a study published this October in the Harvard Business Review (HBR)3 that found that backing away from the intense, always working, 24/7 way of life yields measurable improvements in not just work quality and output but also in employee satisfaction.

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The employees in the experiment were initially resistant because it felt so counter-intuitive (understandably so) that working less could actually help them to work better (and feel better). As the experiment progressed it became so successful on both a business and personal level that other employees began requesting to be included in the next iteration of the experiment!

This study illustrates a number of good things such as: the most difficult part of making changes is often when you are still in the middle of making the change. You haven’t completely broken out of the old habit and the new habit is barely formed. With enough time and effort positive habits can gain momentum and become more ingrained in the same way that negative ones can. It is breaking the momentum of the old habit and building momentum for the new habit that takes so much work, and is where people are most prone to relapse. Once the new habit is sufficiently in place maintaining that momentum requires much less effort. One of the keys to building that positive momentum, which the HBR study illustrates, is getting to experience the benefits of the change. Change for change’s sake is not much of a motivator, but when we repeatedly experience the benefits of the change we build more momentum until eventually the change is fairly self-sustaining and we’re enjoying the fruit of our hard work.


  1. If You Need to Work Better, Maybe Try Working Less by Sue Shellenbarger, Wall Street Journal 
  2. The Art of Stopping 
  3. Making Time Off Predictable–& Required by Leslie A. Perlow and Jessica L. Porter, Harvard Business Review 

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