What do they say about all work and no play? Well, it can do more than make you dull; believe it or not, it can also harm your career.
Thanks to PCs, faxes, and portable phones, we are never really absent from the workplace. That means some anxiety is always there, says Dean McKnight, senior vice president in State College, Pa., of $1 billion-asset Mid-State Bank and Trust Co., a unit of Keystone Financial Inc.
In order to be really effective in the workplace, we have to periodically cleanse our minds and replenish ourselves, Mr. McKnight says.
His outlet? Flying kites.
He carries 80 of them -- and 300 wind socks -- in the trunk of his car. After a stressful day, he stops off at a field and flies a kite for about 20 minutes before going home.
"It really changes my mood," he says. "You have to find ways to divorce yourself from the problems in order to better see the solutions."
Ducks, not kites, are the outside passion of Robert Eberhardt, president of $700 million-asset Bank of Stockton, Calif. For 30 years he has been involved with Ducks Unlimited, a group that raises money to preserve wetlands for ducks and other critters.
Mr. Eberhardt also loves to fish and hunt, and he finds these activities help him to "recharge."
As for people who start work at the crack of dawn and keep going into the wee hours, they're just "sick," he says.
What do Mr. McKnight and Mr. Eberhardt know that highstress workaholics don't?
Healthy executives "use avocational pursuits to prepare themselves for vocational stress." says Steven Berglas, a psychologist who runs the Executive Stress Clinic in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Without downtime, the mind has no capacity to see novel approaches to problems, says Mr., Berglas, co-author of "Your Own Worst Enemy -- Understanding the Paradox of Self-defeating Behavior." published by Basic Books.
A little play will make you a more balanced leader, manager, and problem solver, he says. "You fuel your Mercedes. Why
wouldn't you fuel the organism that is the vehicle to your success?"
Too much stress can damage your health, too. Some stress-related maladies: back pain, headaches, sleep disorders, weight changes, nervous stomach, teeth clenching, and heart disease. And stress can make you more susceptible to illness in general.
The type-A person - the one who jabs at the elevator button 10 times - needs to learn to indulge his or her soft side, says Dr. Reed Moskowitz, who directs a stress center at New York University Medical Center.
Many type-A people had no real childhood, Dr. Moskowitz says, because they were called on at an early age to assume adult responsibilities, such as supporting the family.
Now they have to get in touch with feelings, he says. But that does not mean becoming one of the primal-scream people of the 1970s who, "if they felt it, would shout it out."
Going Against the Flow
Of course, not all bank cultures encourage play.
One woman who works for a big New York bank says senior managers there still delight in working 12 to 15 hour days - and sending computer and voice-mail messages to prove it.
"They're bragging about how late they are working," she says.
This woman made a conscious decision to work only 10 hours a day. "If I thought working an extra hour or two get me caught up, I would do it," she says. "But with this work load, I could never leave and still not get it all done."
What does she do to recharge? She runs four or five times a week and works out at a health club. She is also a fan of science fiction novels. They are a relief, she says, after reading about bank procedures all day.