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Breaking Free from the Overwork Mindset: Embracing Rest and Balance

In our fast-paced and demanding world, the glorification of overwork has become deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. As leaders, it is our responsibility to challenge this narrative and create a culture that values work-life balance and overall well-being.

Today, we will explore the strategies that leaders can employ to overcome the tendency to glorify overwork and foster a healthier approach to success. By shifting the paradigm and redefining success in terms of holistic fulfillment and work-life integration, we can create environments where individuals thrive both personally and professionally.

The Glorification of Overwork and the Importance of Rest

We tend to associate our self-worth with our productivity and the hours we put into our work. This mindset not only affects our personal well-being but also perpetuates a culture of overwork in organizations. Here are some of the common reasons why we glorify overwork and refuse to rest, and explore strategies to break free from this cycle.

The Value of Overwork: None of us want to admit that we would rather feel overwhelmed than underwhelmed. We have been conditioned to believe that being constantly busy and working long hours is a sign of success and productivity. We find a sense of purpose and worthiness in our work, which leads us to constantly seek validation through our accomplishments. The more we work, the more valuable we feel, both to others and ourselves.

Collusion with Employers: This desire to prove our worthiness is further reinforced by employers who encourage overwork through intense pressure to perform. We silently collude with them, often sacrificing our personal lives and well-being in the pursuit of professional success. Without the right guardrails in place, we become trapped in a cycle of overwork that can lead to burnout and diminished productivity in the long run.

Recognizing Compulsive Overworking: he first step towards breaking free from the glorification of overwork is to honestly recognize our tendency to work long and continuous hours. Self-reflection is crucial in understanding the underlying motivations behind our overworking habits. Are we truly being productive, or are we simply trying to prove our worth to ourselves and others? By acknowledging our patterns, we can begin to make conscious choices about our work-life balance.

Prioritizing Sleep and Movement: One of the most effective strategies for intervening in the cycle of overwork is prioritizing rest. Adequate sleep and regular physical movement are essential for maintaining our physical and mental well-being. By valuing and prioritizing these activities, we can recharge our energy levels and improve our overall productivity. It is important to set boundaries and create a work environment that allows for proper rest and rejuvenation.

Finding True Enjoyment Outside of Work: In order to break free from the glorification of overwork, it is essential to cultivate activities outside of work that bring us true enjoyment. Engaging in hobbies, spending time with loved ones, pursuing personal interests, or participating in community service can provide a sense of fulfillment and balance. By finding joy and purpose in activities outside of work, we can redefine our self-worth beyond our professional achievements.

Creating a Work Environment that Allows for Rest and Rejuvenation

Setting boundaries and creating a work environment that promotes proper rest and rejuvenation is essential for maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Here are some practical ways to achieve this:

  1. Establish Clear Work Hours: Clearly define your work hours and communicate them to your colleagues and superiors. Set specific start and end times for your workday and strive to stick to them. This will help create a structure and ensure that work doesn't spill over into your personal time.

  2. Prioritize and Delegate: Learn to prioritize your tasks and delegate when necessary. Identify the most important and urgent tasks that require your immediate attention, and let go of less critical tasks that can be handled by others. By effectively managing your workload, you can avoid unnecessary overworking and create space for rest.

  3. Communicate Boundaries: Be open and assertive about your boundaries with your colleagues and superiors. Clearly express your need for rest and rejuvenation, and let them know when you are unavailable outside of work hours. Set expectations and encourage respectful communication around personal time and boundaries.

  4. Take Regular Breaks: Incorporate regular breaks into your work schedule. Short breaks throughout the day can help prevent burnout and enhance productivity. Use this time to stretch, meditate, or engage in activities that help you recharge and refocus.

  5. Disconnect from Technology: Create designated periods of time where you disconnect from work-related technology, such as emails and notifications. Establish boundaries around when you will check and respond to work-related messages, allowing yourself uninterrupted time to relax and rejuvenate.

  6. Practice Self-Care: Prioritize self-care activities that promote rest and rejuvenation. This could include engaging in hobbies, physical exercise, spending time with loved ones, or simply taking time for yourself to relax and unwind. Incorporate these activities into your routine and treat them as non-negotiable commitments.

  7. Foster a Supportive Culture: Encourage a culture of work-life balance and respect within your organization. Advocate for policies and practices that support employees' well-being, such as flexible work arrangements, mental health support programs, and recognition of the importance of rest. Lead by example and encourage open discussions about work-life balance among your colleagues.

Remember, setting boundaries and creating a work environment that values rest and rejuvenation requires a proactive approach. It may take time and effort to establish these practices, but the long-term benefits to your well-being and productivity are well worth it.

How Leaders Can Overcome the Tendency to Glorify Overwork

As leaders, it is crucial for us to recognize and overcome the tendency to glorify overwork. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Lead by Example: Leaders must set the tone and model healthy work-life balance. By prioritizing rest and self-care, leaders demonstrate that taking time off and setting boundaries is not only acceptable but also necessary for overall well-being and sustained productivity.

  2. Foster a Culture of Balance: Create a work environment that values and supports work-life balance. Encourage employees to take breaks, use their vacation time, and establish clear boundaries between work and personal life. Celebrate achievements and productivity, but also emphasize the importance of rest and rejuvenation.

  3. Set Realistic Expectations: Help employees understand that their value and worth are not solely determined by the number of hours they work. Set realistic expectations for workload and deadlines, ensuring that employees have the time and resources to complete tasks without sacrificing their well-being.

  4. Encourage Open Communication: Create a safe space for employees to discuss their workload, stress levels, and the challenges they face in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Encourage open dialogue and provide support and resources to help employees manage their workload effectively.

  5. Provide Resources and Support: Offer resources such as stress management programs, mental health support, and wellness initiatives. Provide training on time management, prioritization, and work-life balance to help employees develop the skills they need to manage their workload effectively.

  6. Recognize and Reward Balance: Celebrate employees who demonstrate a healthy work-life balance and prioritize self-care. Recognize and reward achievements that go beyond work-related accomplishments, such as personal growth, community involvement, and maintaining strong relationships.

By implementing these strategies, leaders can create a culture that values rest, recognizes the importance of work-life balance, and ultimately helps employees thrive both personally and professionally. Remember, as leaders, we have the power to shape the narrative around overwork and redefine success in a more holistic and sustainable way.


The glorification of overwork and the refusal to rest is deeply ingrained in our society. However, by recognizing our tendencies towards overworking, prioritizing rest, and finding fulfillment outside of work, we can break free from this cycle. It is time to redefine success and value in terms of overall well-being and a balanced life. Let us strive for a culture that encourages productivity without sacrificing our health, relationships, and personal fulfillment. In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn." By taking small steps towards change, we can create a ripple effect that will not only transform our own lives but also inspire others to embrace a healthier and more balanced approach to work and rest.


Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.



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