When I was first interviewing companies that have been shortening their working hours, I talked to Rafat Ali, CEO of Skift, a media and events company that covers the travel industry. He mentioned that one of the unexpected benefits of shortening working hours at Skift– they keep to a 40-hour week, which is unusual in New York media and publishing– is that he can hire people who have interesting second lives. For example,

Four of our employees are improv comedians— it’s just a random thing, and we interviewed one person who did it, and one of our developers is in improv, and she was cast in his show…. They like the flexibility of being able to get in and out, which lets them pursue this second career in comedy.

This stuck with me because I know theatre people who teach improve classes to executives, as a way of promoting teamwork, flexibility and adaptability, etc.– and Rafat’s employees are building these capabilities themselves, in their spare time.

So I was struck when I saw Karina Mikhli, founder of Right-Size COO, writing about taking up improv after reading SHORTER. For her, improv is a valuable form of rest, a way to recharge her batteries. And as she writes, it’s important for people with busy and demanding lives to have those kinds of outlets:

Small businesses demand a lot. Even if you are good at delegating and lucky enough to have enough resources to delegate to, chances are you work way more than 9 to 5 (which I honestly don’t believe exists anymore).

And if you aren’t already feeling it, you will reach a point of diminishing returns when everything just takes longer and/or is harder. Or you’ll make stupid mistakes that are just not like you at all.

This is your body telling you it’s time to rest and recharge….

If you’re getting sick more often, that limit is around the corner. And until someone figures out how to outsource rest and healing, you have to do it for yourself.

Think of it this way: you can either choose to rest at a time that will have the least negative impact on your business, or push yourself until your body shuts down and you have no choice. And if you wait for the latter, chances are it will be the worst possible time for you to take that unavoidable break—and the recovery will be longer too.

Giving people more time for rest– and for time to discover and develop interests that might also improve their working lives– is one of the big reasons companies move to 4-day weeks, as I explain in SHORTER (US|UK). What’s powerful about these companies is that they recognize that there are significant social and scheduling obstacles to us getting more rest, and that by reorganizing the workday, they’re able to make it easier for people to develop new interests, rest, and come back to work recharged and better able to perform at a high level.