We are crazy busy. We get to work early. We eat lunch at our desks. If we manage to get home at a reasonable hour then the laptop comes open after dinner. E-mails to read and send. Documents to edit and compose. Presentations to prepare. Spreadsheets to crunch.
Do you know anyone who isn't up to their eyeballs in work? Ask anyone how they are doing, and they will tell you, "busy".
The only people I know that work 40 hours are those that get paid for 20. Non full-time workers are a great bargain for any employer. They are as productive as the rest of us because they spend all their work hours working, and then spend many more hours working (without pay) on nights and weekends.
How many hours did you work last week? I'm guessing, when you add nights and weekends, that you worked more hours than you slept.
Why have our universities and companies become clubs for workaholics?
1. It's All Made Up: Maybe we actually aren't as busy as we think. We can't all be crazy busy, can we? If someone tracked the time we were actually doing productive work perhaps our contributions would end up being disturbingly slight. How much time is spent unproductively, staring at our screens or spending way more time than necessary writing that e-mail? Or shopping on Amazon, or re-ordering our Netflix queue, or reading online news. We spend long hours at work, but how much of that time are we having non work related conversations? Maybe we feel like we are working all the time because our work and leisure are done on the same devices (our laptops, our mobile phones, our tablets), and we get it mixed up.
2. We Actually Love the Work: Perhaps we really are working all the time, but are doing so out of love. Let's face it, we love our work. The big secret of work in 2012 is if you are lucky enough to have a job that you probably really like that job. And why not? Most of us work with smart, funny, and creative people. We work on projects that we believe in. Our work is our creative outlet. We are mission driven. We take pride in the accomplishments of our teams and organizations. Work is the easy part, the challenge is balancing everything else in life.
3. We Are All Afraid: Fear is a much bigger motivator in our work lives than any of us care to admit (even to ourselves). We fear losing our jobs. We fear not living up to expectations. We fear disappointing our colleagues. Vanishingly few of us believe that we have a secure job for life, or any kind of guarantee that we will be able to have a life long career at our current employer. So we channel our fears into both work and a presentation of self that stresses how hard we work. We are busy because we need to be irreplaceable.
4. Hiring New People Is Now A Last Resort: My guess is that your team, your group, or your division is structurally short-staffed. Employers have figured out that it is much harder to lay-off than to hire. Excess demand is perhaps met by hiring temporary workers, or sourcing the jobs. We all have an amazing capacity to stretch to do whatever work is required, and coming off this terrible recession most of us understand how difficult it would be to find another job. So we put in the extra hours, cover all the jobs, and tell ourselves that we are among the lucky to be employed (and we are!). Our GDP is back to where it was pre-recession, but our job numbers are no where close. Yes, we have become more productive, and technology has helped. But the jobless recovery is partly due to all of our willingness to work more.
5. Technology Is to Blame: What did people do before laptops? With our laptops we can work anywhere. Get to a meeting a few minutes early, pull out your laptop. Going to sit outside, bring your laptop. The airport, the airplane, the deck, the cafe, the couch, and the bed - all laptop friendly. And when we can't sit down with our laptop, we can always pull out our smart phones. Yesterday it was only the corporate Blackberry folks who were in constant e-mail touch. Today, everyone is. If you are a smart phone holdout then think twice before giving in. My frequency of e-mail checking has gone up exponentially ever since I got my iPhone.
6. We Are All Crazy: Could we all be crazy? Could the constant answer of "busy", or "really busy" to the question of "how's it going?" mean that we have all entered into some mass delusional state? My challenge to you. The next time someone asks how you are doing, say something like: "relaxed", or "chilling out", or "taking it slow". See how people react.
So, how are you doing?