Most of the time, when we hear the word sustainability, we think about our resources and the environment, but the word can provide some insight when you think about it in terms of yourself and your daily schedule. It is common for people our age to overschedule themselves, to pile a minimum-wage job on top of a minimum-wage job because it is better than feeling unproductive. But there has to be something wrong with overscheduling ourselves to the point where we are uncomfortable with doing nothing. There’s often this false notion that taking the time to do things that make us happy is unproductive. And if we give into this false notion, it is going to lead to pent-up aggression that is going to manifest itself down the road.
It does not help that companies are placing unrealistic demands on their employees, expecting them to carry their work home with them. The sad part is that the employees have to put up with a never-ending workload because they can easily be replaced. In this highly globalized, fast-paced economy, the notion that we need companies more than they need us is a fear in the back of all our minds. Research done by The Energy Project, a group that partners with existing companies to offer consulting work with the purpose of creating healthier workplaces, has revealed that 70 percent of employees feel disengaged. This disengagement can result from inadequate sleep, difficulty focusing or discontent between what they find meaningful and the work they do. What if The Energy Project conducted the same study on college students? I’m sure a similar, if not greater, percentage of college students would show symptoms of disengagement as well.
We work like robots. We enter studying with the mentality that we will not stop until we accomplish A, B and C. We are not meant to work like that; research reveals that studying intensively for four hours a day in periods of 90 minutes is more productive than just mindlessly studying for hours on end. Sometimes we go so far as to lock ourselves in cages in the library. Why do we attach this barbaric image to education, something we value and honor? I have always looked at education as a gift, but when we start treating it like a burden it becomes clear how we lose the motivation that brought us to college in the first place.
The way we work is not the only change that needs to be made; the duration of our work should also be called into question. A recent article in The Atlantictitled “Where the Five-Day Workweek Came From” questioned the possibility of “unmaking” the notion of the seven-day week since it is an entirely man-made concept in the first place. Research suggests that switching to a shorter workweek would lead to greater productivity, better health and greater employee retention.
Some companies, such as TreeHouse, a company that teaches coding, are adopting a four-day work week. Other companies are using other tactics to reduce worker stress, such as dividing the employees into two groups: One group works 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday to Thursday and the other group works the same hours, but from Tuesday to Friday. After every week, the two groups switch schedules so that they get a four-day weekend every other weekend. Think about that: That means those camping trips that you treasure so dearly as a once, maybe thrice-a-year occurrence, can become commonplace. A four-day workweek is something that many college students are accustomed to. If you ask anyone who is not a freshman if they have class on Friday, they’ll give you a sweet smile. It would be nice if this trend of clocking out on Thursday night for the weekend could carry on out into the workplace.
Now is the time to get it down: Don’t scarf down TV dinners with the promise of cooking for yourself “when you have time”; don’t postpone that Couch to 5K workout plan staring at you from behind your desk. When you go out into the “real world” I advise you not to sign your name on some contract and forsake your happiness because it means security. I leave you with these inspiring words from one of the best ’90s films:
“And they wonder why those of us in our 20s … refuse to work an 80-hour week, just so we can afford to buy their BMWs, why we aren’t interested in the counterculture that they invented, as if we did not see them disembowel their revolution for a pair of running shoes.” — Reality Bites
If you want NICOLE NELSON to personally justify why you should start working less and start doing more yoga you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.