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Welcome to 2021. The year we’ve finally just said goodbye to was not an easy one — period — but it posed specific challenges when it came to work. The erosion of the boundaries between home and work created a constant battle against burnout — a battle, I admit, I wasn’t always successful at fighting. In fact, that’s the reason I took some extended time off over the holidays. It was very productive time off, and that was partly due to the fact that very much on my mind was my recent interview on the “WorkWell” Deloitte podcast with John Fitch and Max Frenzel, authors of the very timely book Time Off: A Practical Guide to Building Your Rest Ethic and Finding Success Without the Stress. It was a great lesson in how we need to rethink how we think about time off.

We all pride ourselves on having a great work ethic. If you didn’t take your work seriously, or put a lot of thought and consideration into your work and how to do it better, you probably wouldn’t be here reading this. But we’re missing something — what John and Max call a “rest ethic,” which is the part of the podcast that resonated most for me. It’s one of those terms that’s new, but you instantly get it because it captures something essential about our experience. That’s certainly been the reaction of everybody at Deloitte that I mentioned it to.

And it makes sense. Our constant focus solely on our work ethic helps fuel our culture’s obsession with the “badge of busy,” in which our harried, overscheduled lives of perpetual busyness are proudly worn as a badge of honor. We think that the way to communicate that we take our jobs seriously is to never stop doing them. But having a strong work ethic — without a correspondingly strong rest ethic that we take every bit as seriously — is what’s burning us out. That’s certainly been true for me in the past.

The connection between our work ethic and our rest ethic should be as natural as breathing. “The work ethic is to inhale — it’s getting things done, it is going down your task list, but you can only keep inhaling for so long,” Max told me. “A lot of people have forgotten that — they try to keep inhaling, inhaling, and that’s how you get to burnout.”

Another lesson I drew from the conversation is our need to get rid of the guilt we feel around time off. We should see it instead as an “investment into productivity, and into creativity,” as Max put it. And if you think you don’t have time for time off, then, as John said, “that means someone else has your time.”

This past year, with all of its never-ending disruptions, was a time in which so much of our conversation around work was about how to create more boundaries for our work, how to be more productive once we sat down to work, and how to stay focused and not let ourselves get distracted from our work.


  • Jen Fisher

    Human Sustainability Leader at Deloitte and Editor-at-Large, Human Sustainability at Thrive Global

    Jen Fisher is a leading voice on the intersection of work, well-being, and purpose. Her mission is to help leaders move from the legacy mindset that well-being is solely the responsibility of the individual to the forward-thinking idea of human sustainability, which supports the long-term, collective well-being of individuals, organizations, climate, and society.  

    She’s the co-author of the bestselling, award-winning book, Work Better Together: How to Cultivate Strong Relationships to Maximize Well-Being and Boost Bottom Lines, the Human Sustainability Editor-at-Large for Thrive Global, and the host of the WorkWell podcast series.

    As the first chief well-being officer of a professional services organization, Jen built and led the creation and execution of a pioneering holistic and inclusive well-being strategy that has received recognition from leading business media brands and associations.

    Jen is a frequent writer on issues impacting the workplace today, including the importance of mental health and social connection to workforce resilience, happiness, and productivity. Her work has been featured in CNBC, CNN, Fast Company, Fortune, Inc, Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Harvard Business Review, among others.

    She’s a sought-after speaker and has been featured at events including TEDx, World Happiness Summit, Out & Equal Workplace Summit, Acumen Global Gathering, WorkHuman, The Atlantic Pursuit of Happiness event, and more. She’s also lectured at top universities across the country, including Harvard, Wake Forest, Duke, and George Mason.

    Jen is passionate about sharing her breast cancer and burnout recovery journeys to help others. She’s also a healthy lifestyle enthusiast, self-care champion, exercise fanatic, sleep advocate, and book nerd! Jen lives in Miami with her husband, Albert, and dog, Fiona.

    You can find her on LinkedIn or on Twitter and Instagram @JenFish23. You can also receive her personal insights and reflections by subscribing to her newsletter, "Thoughts on Being Well" @jenfisher.substack.com.