As I clicked the “Leave” button on my computer screen, I felt a wave of relief wash over me. At last, the day was done. Seven hours of Zoom meetings had left my eyes feeling like fried eggs.
Even though I had been sitting all day, I felt physically and mentally drained. My daughter wanted me to watch a TV show with her, so I tried to focus, but my eyes were stinging. I went to the doctor and was less than thrilled when he prescribed eye drops for me.
It’s a familiar tale to many people whose work is increasingly moving online. Even if you don’t have an office job, it’s likely you have spent more time using screens in the past few years. Don’t get me wrong: I’m grateful for the chance to work from home because not everyone is so lucky. It turns out most people actually prefer to work online if they can. Recent studies show only 12 per cent of workers want to return to an office-based work system, and 72 per cent want a hybrid online/office model.1
Global events and the change in how we work have given rise to a new malady—Zoom fatigue. It’s the feeling of exhaustion and burnout after excessive engagement on video conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Teams. Professor Jeremy Bailenson, founding director of the Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab, insists that there isn’t anything inherently wrong with online video platforms, saying, “Videoconferencing is a good thing for remote communication, but just think about the medium—just because you can use video doesn’t mean you have to.”2
Screens aren’t the problem, as some suggest. The problem is the cognitive exhaustion that comes from being constantly “switched on” during intensive conferencing sessions. Instead of speaking with just one or two people at a time, you may have 50 or perhaps hundreds of faces online with you simultaneously.
Along with Zoom fatigue comes the fact that it is more difficult to draw healthy boundaries between home and work if you work from home. Jane Fraser, the CEO of Citigroup, says, “The blurring of lines between home and work and the relentlessness of the pandemic workday have taken a toll on our wellbeing.”3 Blurring those lines means work is always present at home, which inevitably leads to stress and exhaustion. In such conditions, it is difficult to truly get away and have a meaningful break.
God gives you a day off
In response to the blurring of those lines, a countermovement has arisen to give people the right to disconnect. Online communities such as Reddit have also been the breeding ground for what is now known as the antiwork movement. This movement is fighting for fairer pay and more rights for workers, including the right to take time off without reprisal. In 2021, Portugal made it illegal for a supervisor to email, call or even text an employee outside of office hours.4
However, this isn’t the first time that rest from work has been set down as a law. In the Ten Commandments, written in stone and delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai, the command to rest became the fourth commandment. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns” (Exodus 20:8–10).
I find it fascinating that God placed a command to rest in the heart of the Ten Commandments, along with other important laws like “Thou shalt not kill” and “Thou shalt not steal.” Society is familiar with the prohibitions against killing and stealing but has oddly ignored the resting commandment, even though it is carved right alongside the others. God seems to be telling us that having a day off is just as important as any of those other commandments, and not just any day, but the Sabbath day. I can get behind a commandment that tells me to have a day off!
The world seems to be getting increasingly busy. The small country town I grew up in essentially closed down on Saturday and Sunday. It was a time for picnics, family get-togethers and church. These days, however, stores are open all weekend. I’m not complaining; I love going shopping with my family on Sunday. Sadly, though, culture now seems to be moving toward normalising the seven-day work week. We’ve forgotten about the command to rest; consequently, we are collectively wearier for it.
In some cultures, the overwork ethic has reached catastrophic heights. A Japanese political journalist made headlines around the world after she passed away from congestive heart failure. Miwa Sado (aged 31) reportedly worked 159 hours of overtime in one month for her demanding job.5 Death from overwork in Japan happens so frequently it even has a name: karoshi.
We aren’t meant to work that hard. It injures our health. Longer work hours lead to a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Long work hours usually mean less sleep, which causes our immune systems to deteriorate.6 Humans need a day of rest every week. Getting that day of rest provides health benefits such as reducing stress and decreasing the chance of obesity and heart disease.7 Resting increases productivity because it enables people to work at peak efficiency.
Only the Sabbath was made holy
But why is a specific day off so important? Couldn’t we simply rest anytime we’re tired? Exodus 20:11 goes on to tell us why God created the Sabbath. “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” The creation week started with God creating not only the earth, humanity and everything that fills, it but also a day of rest. Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27).
It is God’s gift to us—a day of rest. From the very beginning, we needed that day. When was the last time you took a whole 24-hour period away from work, a day away from even thinking about work, away from all those things that worry and stress you throughout the week? God said there is a day to put all those things aside, to remember His creation, to remember Him and rest. The seventh day of the week is God’s sacred Sabbath, created just for you. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday won’t do. You cannot keep a day holy that God did not make holy. According to the Bible, His special day begins at sunset Friday and closes at sunset Saturday. “From evening to evening, you shall celebrate your sabbath” (Leviticus 23:32, NKJV*). This holy day of rest is observed by millions of people around the world.
I remember visiting Jerusalem on a Friday night. We passed the Western Wall, which was bustling with faithful Jews worshiping at the start of Shabbat (Sabbath). I was taken aback by just how happy they were that their day of rest had arrived. Dancing, shouts of joy and celebrations were breaking out all around me. The Sabbath is a gift from God and one to be celebrated as something precious He has given us—time off! Too often, I try to relax by collapsing in front of a different screen, which makes my day of rest anything but restful. I need to remember more often what Professor Bailenson said: just because the screens are there doesn’t mean I have to use them. When screens become work, rest from them is what I need.
Jesus made all the days of the week, but He singled out the seventh and set it aside as a unique time for Him to spend with His created children. According to the Bible, He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and I’ve found that focusing on Jesus means that I feel truly rested by the end of the rest day. I find peace in the Sabbath God has created. Worshipping Him, enjoying nature and spending time with fellow believers is something I look forward to all week long. It’s more than a day off to me; it’s a special day with my Friend and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Justin Bone supports and trains pastors and congregations around Victoria, Australia, for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He is passionate about helping people understand the Bible better.
If you’d like to find a local congregation of Sabbath keepers, simply click here.
*Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- “Moving Beyond Remote: Workplace Transforma- tion in the Wake of COVID-19,” https://slack.com/intl/en-au/blog/collaboration/workplace-transformation-in-the-wake-of-covid-19
- “Stanford Researchers Identify Four Causes for ‘Zoom Fatigue’ and Their Simple Fixes,” https://news.stanford.edu/2021/02/23/four-causes-zoom-fatigue-solutions/
- “Remote Work: The Blurring of Business and Personal Life,” https://www.forbes.com/sites/stephaniesarkis/2021/03/27/remote-work-the-blurring-of-business-and-personal-life/
- “Portugal Makes It Illegal for Bosses to Email, Call or Text After Hours, and Australia Could Be Next,” https://www.news.com.au/finance/work/at-work/portugal-makes-it-illegal-for-bosses-to-email-call-or-text-after-hours-and-australia-could-be-next/news-story/318819d4b978fd30de317f70ae536ad7
- “This 31-Year-Old Japanese Journalist Died Holding a Phone After Working 159 Hours of Overtime in a Month,” https://www.businessinsider.com/japan-nhk-journalist-miwa-sado-died-after-working-159-hours-overtime-2017-10
- “Long Workhours and Health,” Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, and Health 29, no. 3 (2003): 171–188, doi.org/10.5271/sjweh.720
- “A Day of Rest: 12 Scientific Reasons It Works,” Inc., January 1, 2017, https://www.inc.com/rhett-power/a-day-of-rest-12-scientific-reasons-it-works.html