Overwork isn’t synonymous of being productive
Maybe it’s just a signal of being busy for the sake of being busy
I really don’t understand companies that encourage or require people to overwork. If it was possible I think they would require people to work 24/7. It seems they want machines.
Besides having no respect or interest in people’s lives, these companies don’t realize that the quality of the result in the business can be compromised. Fatigue, lack of time to calm and clear the mind, lack of experiences outside the office, lack of other perspectives, lack of time to healthy habits and relationships, and lack of time to study will hinder more than help.
I don’t think that just encouraging the employees to not overwork is enough. We need to give examples, starting with the leaders of the companies. So, the people could embrace and believe in this philosophy, without fear of lost their job or feeling guilty. Leaders could experiment to work still less hours by week and promote a healthy work-life balance.
Here is another subject to think about: when the people are paid for hours inside the office and not for the results they generate, companies can end up encouraging inefficiency and procrastination. Depending on the company culture, people can spend hours just getting busy with unimportant things or pretending they’re working. In this context, the more time they have to get a job done, maybe more time they’ll spend doing it.
I had the experience to work 3 days per week and 8 hours per day — 24 hours per week — for 2 years (2016 and 2017) and I don’t believe that it compromised my results. Since the job interview I negotiated to work in this way. They accepted the idea — thanks! — and we agreed to experiment for 3 months and evaluate it after. Since the result was positive, we kept my contract of 3 days per week during the 2 years I worked there.
It was a great experiment in my life. I had to focus and give my best in those days of work.
I had more time to follow and create new habits, study, do nothing, start other projects, nurture relationships, re-evaluate where I put my money and adjust my expenses to a smaller wage, taking one step further towards simplicity. It was in parallel when I stopped using smartphone — I have a dumb phone for 3 years. That is, I really create conditions to disconnect from work and also from other distractions on other times and days. If something was urgent, someone could call me. But, as we know:
"What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important." — Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Currently, I returned to work 40 hours per week paying close attention to my time, values, habits, trying to maintain a healthy balance among my areas of life and giving attention to me and my partner. Until now, everything is going well.
Each time I get a job interview I say clearly to employers about my time: when I’m inside the office I’ll do my best. And, I have a life outside the office and other commitments, so I’ll leave the office after the hours that we agreed to work. These hours will be enough to do what I can and call it a day.
So, that’s one of my criteria to accept jobs: quality of life. I’m not so interested in playground inside the office as I’m interested in my life also out of the office. In addition, inside the office, my big interests are purpose, learn and improve skills, autonomy, healthy culture and healthy relationships.
Work 40 hours per week or eight hours per day are things taken for granted that we could just challenge. We could try to work fewer days per week (3 or 4 days) or fewer hours per day (4 or 6 hours). Whatever the numbers. We could and should experiment more about hours and days of work keeping in mind our quality of life and the positive impact we can offer while working.
Maybe work not so hard or fewer hours per week isn’t an option for the most part of people but, honestly, I haven’t seen many people trying other ways, at least in Brazil, especially in tech-jobs where in general we hardly depend on business hours and days.
So, we have:
- Companies promoting unnecessary or disrespectful work-hours;
- People not claiming respect for their own time, working more time only out of habit, having little attention in how they are spending their time, not making explicit to other people how important is their time out of office, exchanging messages outside their work time, maybe from their homes, even in tasks with no urgency;
- And, people less interested in work fewer hours than the standard because it will possibly mean less money, and the need to learn how to be more efficient and have to make better decisions with their time and money.
I admire people that knows how to focus their attention to cause big impact in the constraint of hours worked and also have a good balance in their own life: they are able to maintain a healthy relationship with partners, relatives, and friends, they have time to study and pursue hobbies, they have time to do nothing and rest, and time do to whatever they want out of the office.
Sadly, it’s easier to find people that don't know how to use their attention, time and money. Many of them are inside the offices and this isn’t surprising. Those people prefer to get busy for the sake of being busy, as if this were glamorous, make them important and productive. And we know that it’s not quite the case. Being busy and getting things done aren’t the same thing.