It’s 10PM on a Monday and I’m still working. As painful as it is to say this-- it’s pretty normal. I expect it is the same for many of you reading this.
Work has taken over our world in this never-ending cycle of touch base, make moves, move the needle, squeak the wheel, hustle, bustle, go get ‘em, I can’t turn my phone off on the weekend, because nobody else does-- BUT HOLD UP! Hooooold up, slow that gravy work train down. What are we doing to ourselves?
We’re guilty of doling out advice about how to work smarter on a Sunday. In recent years there has been a steady rise of U.S. employees not only working after hours but also during lunch breaks and over the weekends. And while the U.S. does advocate for work-life balance, we are a country of "overloaded" workers.
We’ve talk a bit in the past about France, their commitment to the 35-hour work week, and their ban on emails past 6pm. There are other female-led companies that have taken similar steps to alter the course. Shani Godwin, CEO of Communiqué USA, a leading marketing strategy and creative content company serving small businesses and Fortune 500 brands has implemented this approach. Shani has a number of work-life balance policies, including no emailing after work hours, as a way to ensure her employees have time to manage their personal lives and spend time with their children and families.
The problem is that Godwin is part of the minority of companies that enforce such policies.
We’ve all bought into the myth of the hustle, in part because the fear of failing or “getting in trouble” as an adult is very real. What if my boss needs me at 2pm on a Saturday? What if there is a last minute crisis? If everyone else is doing it, and I’m not, will I be seen as a less valuable employee? Will I be replaced?
"The reality is we have to keep up with the Work Jones'. Even if that means responding to weekend emails."
The answer is likely yes. The reality is we have to keep up with the Work Jones'. Even if that means responding to weekend emails.
Do you remember as a kid first learning about peer pressure? When your mom or dad would ask, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you?”
“NO!” You’d yell indignantly, at that point secure in your sense of self and autonomy. Well, we’re a little less indignant these days and a lot less free-- at least from our phones, and we’ve jumped. But since we've all jumped it's up to us to figure out how to make it work, and understand the breaking point of our own burnout.
Most of us agree (even our bosses) that we have to give ourselves permission to take a break. Some creatives set ground rules about emailing, and will put up an away message telling emailers that they will be available from 8am-8pm, and that all weekend emails will be returned on Monday AM. Try it out. It might work for you. It might only add to the anxiety you feel about not responding immediately.
Carly Kuhn, an LA-based illustrator (@thecartorialist) who has worked with brands like Absolut, and just took over Coachella’s Snapchat this past weekend, says “You have to take advantage of situations, and hustle, especially when it’s your own thing, but that makes it so hard to turn off.”
But she sees a positive. “Our world is more collaborative than it's ever been, and work and life are similar. But for me, that makes those special gem moments when you meet someone new, and you realize we don’t have to talk about work, this is not about work, all the more special.”
Rachel Mae Furman, leisure expert (yes, that is one of her real titles, bless) of Smoke & Honey says, “The problem with the current work culture is that it doesn’t leave any time for leisure, and leisure is vital to working better. To be on top of your career game, you need to be on top of your leisure game.”
So how do we put an end to the imbalance?
You have to make a choice-- and it's a personal one. What are you willing to commit to your job? What are you willing to give up? Do you even see working toward a goal as giving something up? Are you OK with having after-work drinks be "work?"
In part, it depends on what industry you want to work in. If you work at a startup, you know you're going to be clocking insane hours. If you want a job that clocks out at 6pm, you can find one.
But very successful people work this hard. All the time. Don't shoot the messenger.
Arianna Schioldager is Create & Cultivate's editorial director. You can find her on IG @ariannawrotethis and more about her on this site she never updates www.ariannawrotethis.com