"The times are urgent, let us slow down."
- Bayo Akomolafe
I remember once waking up on a Wednesday morning, opening my Instagram account and coming across a colleague’s Insta story where she and two other colleagues were at their work desks in office, smiling at the camera and holding up their hands in a victory sign. The hashtag read #3amofficeselfie
I had known for a while that my advertising career was demanding but this post was the abrupt kick in the gut I needed to realize just how bad things were. We weren’t just ‘putting up’ with a late night at work, we were ‘showing off’. Working overtime had become not just a norm, but also desirable - a sign that you are passionate about work. Who in the world joins advertising for work-life-balance anyway?
It’s a disturbing trend I have noticed not just in advertising but many other industries - making ‘busyness’ a metric of success. And technology has evolved to facilitate this culture of busyness. Laptops have replaced desktops so you can carry work home. You have work email synced on your phone so you can carry work in your pocket, literally everywhere you go. Companies have started offering flexi-timing but, really, it just ends up making everyone work more. As they say - you can rest when you’re dead.
Yet, despite the pressure to be "always on," a growing amount of research suggests that the best way to stay productive all the time is to spend a good portion of it being unproductive. Working beyond 40 hours a week actually decreases productivity. Employees who are tired tend to make more mistakes, lose sight of the bigger picture and are significantly less likely to come up with breakthrough ideas. In fact, a study published in 2016, proves that employees who take more time off work are more likely to get a promotion or a raise at work - both signs that working less, in fact, is the way to go if you want to do well at work.
This post is not an argument against working hard. It’s a post about not making ‘the number of hours worked’, ‘being too busy’ and a ‘3amofficeselfie’ a measure of success. A quote on the Humans of New York blog perfectly sums it up -
“It’s not ‘no’ to working harder. It’s ‘no’ to excess. To not redoing something twenty times when you have it on the first try. Or creating thirty proposals because the boss would love to see ‘just one more,’ ‘just one more.’ It’s excess. And it’s almost as bad as doing nothing. Because what is good gets lost in the excess. I don’t have time for it anymore. I have to recognize what’s most important. I don’t have time for endless debate. I have to go straight to the source of the problem.”