High-stress and competitive work culture plagues millions of workplaces and impedes billions of workers every day, afflicting not just major companies but also gig workers and start-ups.
From the authors of the New York Times bestseller Rework, the book It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work is essential reading if you’ve ever been busy beyond belief. Craziness at work is too common in today’s world of long hours, early mornings, and weekend work sessions. 70 to 80-hour work weeks have become the standard in the workaholic world.
But do long hours really lead to increased productivity?
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Authors Fried and Hansson argue that most of the time, the extra hours you spend at your desk aren’t spent on meaningful work. Instead, they’re squandered in a fog of tension and distractions brought on by the demands of new technologies and never-ending meetings.
In fact, lengthy and frantic workdays contribute to stress, and ultimately burnout. This stress stems from the culture of our jobs. Unhealthy workplace culture begins at the top and is passed down to managers, subordinates, and even customers.
Too many people have irrational views of success
One such mentality, widely shared on social media and replicated in many workplaces, is that success requires hours and hours of grind, and office workers need an enormous capacity to work hard and endure pain.
While working 18-hour days for your career, how would your decision-making, productivity and creativity be impacted when you are burned out? In reality, innovation and creativity are rarely achieved by using brute force. Instead, they are developed through quiet moments of contemplation and consistent effort.
Remove what isn’t necessary and reclaim your time to maximise your workday
As co-founders of the successful software business Basecamp, Fried and Hansson have done something almost unprecedented today: they have offered their staff an eight-hour workday. This is counter-cultural in a world where many modern managers believe that eight hours is insufficient.
The argument for the eight-hour day is this: if you can’t fit everything you want to do into 40 hours per week, you need to improve your time management skills rather than working longer hours. The time is sufficient if we cut out unnecessary meetings and distractions. In the same vein, it defeats the purpose of cramming more work with less time if the work done is not meaningful. After all, productivity (i.e., getting a lot of rubbish done) does not equate to efficiency (i.e., cutting down rubbish).
To deal with the workload and get home on time, companies and leaders need to safeguard working hours the same way it treats their goods, intellectual property, and data. Simply put, those hours are precious and finite.
Unfortunately, many businesses regard their employees’ time and attention as a limitless resource. However, in today’s environment, an individual’s attention may be the most valuable commodity.
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The company is not your family
Many companies love to tell their employees that everyone works as a family. While co-workers can and do look out for one another, a business is not a family; it is simply a group of people collaborating to make things happen.
When executives say their organisation is “like a huge family”, they aren’t usually talking about how the company will protect you no matter what or love you unconditionally. Ultimately, it is a way to induce staff to work longer hours. Organisations discreetly prime their employees to make personal sacrifices in favour of work by connecting themselves with the concept of family.
Because when the picture of the family is invoked, the courage to achieve whatever it takes naturally follows. You’re not just working late or skipping vacation to increase profits; you’re doing it for your family.
The best companies are advocates for real families. They create healthy, rewarding work environments so employees can go home and be with their families when they close their laptops at a decent hour.
If you want to change this culture as a manager, you have to take the lead through your actions. Consider giving your employees adequate vacation time and providing a rewarding workplace, so that your colleagues can go home to their real families happy and fulfilled at the end of each day.
Then, give yourself permission to have the same things. You can’t legitimately preach the merits of regular hours, plenty of rest, and a healthy lifestyle to your staff if you’re doing the opposite. What you do is more important than what you say.
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Make the right decisions to avoid driving yourself crazy
With the demands and expectations of people around you, it’s easy to forget that you always have a choice in what you prioritise, and how you behave and treat those around you. Even if you have a demanding boss or a challenging client, you are still the captain of your ship. Your choices have an impact on whether your working environment is stressful or tranquil.
You do not have to be in a position of authority to choose serenity over madness. Whatever your function, you still have a locus of control – a sphere of influence surrounding you that you may use to bring some order. Within this space, however limited, you can improve your working style, rethink your interactions with co-workers, and regain control over your own time.
You always have a choice to pursue calmness
A career or business is a set of options. Every day is a new opportunity to make a different choice.
You have an option. And if you don’t have the authority to affect change at the corporate level, look for opportunities at the personal level. You can always choose to adjust yourself and your expectations. Change how you engage with others. Safeguard your own time. You may start making better decisions to remove craziness and bring yourself closer to peace no matter where you are in an organisation.
This article is co-created by NexPage, a translated book summary app, and Workipedia by MyCareersFuture.