Simon Cowell, who doesn't work Fridays, won't 'bet the house' on Gen Zs that don't take weekend calls



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Music mogul Simon Cowell built his multimillion-dollar brand as a cut-throat judge with an eye for a hit and an obsession with the minor details that would send his schedule into the early hours. If that man could see the “new,” wellness-focused Cowell, he’d be shocked. 

The creator of Britain’s Got Talent and The X Factor detailed a radical shift in how he thinks about work after revealing last year that he had effectively stopped working Fridays.

Cowell, who is worth £450 million ($572 million) according to the Sunday Times Rich List, divulged to the Diary of a CEO podcast how he became a workaholic in the wake of the death of his mother in 2015. 

He says this would involve working until 7 a.m., leading to success but little happiness.

Speaking to Diary of a CEO host Steven Bartlett, 64-year-old Cowell says he’s learned the error of his workaholic ways. The British multi-millionaire has taken several steps to rebalance his and renew his creativity. A crucial part of that was simply getting more sleep.

The new Simon

“Getting good sleep is crucial,” Cowell told Bartlett. 

“You hear about these people who survive on four hours of sleep a night and I’m like, how? I need 10 hours if possible.”

Cowell’s comments mark an exception from the sleeping schedules of high-flying execs. A 2022 poll of Fortune 500 CEOs found the average boss got about 6.3 hours of sleep per night. 

Other wellness-focused business leaders, including anti-aging guru Bryan Johnson, have called out the “mythology” around tech giants who pride themselves on how little they can sleep.

“I really believe that sleep is the best medicine that your body can have,” Cowell said, admitting that if “old Simon” heard him say that, his reply would be “yeah, right.”

Cowell told The Sun last November he had stopped working Fridays because he felt he could achieve the same amount in a four-day week as he could in five.

“I’m not kidding about the Fridays,” Cowell told The Sun. “I don’t think anyone should be working five days a week. It’s just pointless.”

He doubled down on that sentiment on the podcast released Monday.

“Is the fifth day really going to make a difference if you’re working better on the four days?” Cowell asked rhetorically, adding that having a three-day weekend was more fun. 

While Cowell has previously said this four-day week rule should apply to everyone, apparently there are exceptions.

The America’s Got Talent judge still thinks it’s vital for people to work harder and longer when they’re younger. 

“When I was younger, genuinely I didn’t think about weekends,” Cowell said, detailing the 16-hour shifts he enjoyed as a runner. 

Cowell said that if a 21-year-old came to work from him but logged out at 5:30 pm and told him not to call at the weekend, then “I’m not going to bet the house on you.” He admits that, eventually, a time comes when workers can take their foot off the gas.

“There is a point when you realize that you’ve got your groove, you’re being successful, you’ve got a good team around you, then don’t kill yourself in the process.”

Cowell quits his smartphone

It isn’t just Fridays Cowell has shunned in pursuit of a more rebalanced life.

Even though he expects different from his Gen Z employees, Cowell confirmed to Bartlett that he doesn’t check his emails after 6 pm in a dramatic shift to his work-life balance that picked up steam after he had his son, Eric, in 2014.

Cowell also revealed that he doesn’t have a smartphone, except for one that stays in his car. He compared his smartphone to carrying around a “toaster” because it was of such little use to him and caused him a great deal of stress.

“I realized not being on it for three to four months in the year, I was happier in that time,” Cowell said.

His message is simple for anyone trying to track down a phoneless Cowell in the interim.

“If you need to get hold of me and you know me… you will.”

Cowell new laissez-faire attitude has left him with few regrets.

One glaring frustration, however, is not owning the naming rights to One Direction, the boyband formed out of The X Factor in 2010.

“I could have made an animation or whatever, but when you give an artist the name, it’s not yours, and that’s my only regret,” Cowell said, adding that if the likes of Harry Styles and Zayn Malik were listening, he would buy the name back from them.



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