Imagine yourself in the paid workforce (This might be super easy!). Let’s call it a full-time job. A 5-day work week probably comes to mind of 40 hours (Thank you, labor unions!). Some of you like me even remember a timecard that you “punched” inside of a special clock. Now imagine that your supervisor or perhaps a trusted work adviser says, “Don’t go in on Friday. You’ll get more work done.” Huh?
That’s exactly what Microsoft Japan did with some of its workers. For a month, they got every Friday off and productivity rose 40%. Japan’s workforce is at the top of the list for hours worked and at the bottom for productivity among similar type economies.
The Microsoft Japan study’s results have been seen before in multiple studies: increasing rest and recreation produce greater productivity. Of course, for hourly workers, the clock is pay, clock (chronos) time is rewarded, a legacy of the industrial revolution where people were turned into repetitive job machines.
I bring up the topic and mention this study because I was working at my home office in Boulder this week and noticed my own inner resistance and moral judgment when I felt tired and thought about a nap after lunch. Though recovering from sickness and late night travel, my inner voice said, “No, I can’t do that. I’m supposed to be working! I have things to do! I’m on the clock!” I was curious at my resistance. What about you? What was it like for you to imagine the advice scenario above; a nap or rest or less work hours? Did you feel any twinge of hesitation or guilt?
I also name this study and story because rest is a theological matter, a deep basic truth. Our first story of Scripture ends with the seventh day proclaimed as a day of rest, Sabbath, aka God’s big exhale. We still worship together weekly because of this rhythm.
The deep wisdom of sabbath is rest, renewal, and remembering.
In addition to the needed physical rest from labor for people and animals that produces renewal, sabbath was meant to be a useful spiritual practice for remembering the Creator and the Creation, and our humble place in the miracle of Life. It is a time to get out of the narrow practical consciousness of the ego, the money maker, the material consumer, the do-er, and shift into the Divine Wonder of earth, beauty, connection, communion, being, surrender, celebration, gratitude, and humility. The physical rest and the spiritual practice produce renewal and re-creation. We move from chronos (linear time) to kairos (sacred time) in deep Sabbath practice.
Maybe I got lost in the Protestant work ethic or the cash economy culture of production or maybe even in trying to gain someone’s approval (even my own). The Sabbath truth of rest and renewal remains. Work AND rest serve each other, even in times of crisis and need like these.
But my spouse and I are planning to take 3 days during Thanksgiving week (Tuesday – Thursday) to turn off our phones and computers and rest. No prepping a big dinner. No travel. Just reading, talking, sleeping, connecting, praying, playing, and remembering who and whose we are amidst this wonder of Creation.