She’s incredibly busy, she barely gets six hours sleep a night.
He worked a 16 hour day yesterday, without so much as a lunch break.
Her texts are frazzled, and you must be sure to make plans at least three weeks in advance.
He is attached to his phone, checking his emails even as he falls asleep.
According to a recent survey, millennials might not be that lazy and entitled after all.
The average 16 – 24-year-old works an additional (to the 40 hour working week) seven hours and 22 minutes, which is two hours more a week than staff over the age of 55.
Research also suggests that 11% of millennials are putting in more than 20 hours overtime each week.
Now, I'm not telling you this so we can all stand up and give Gen Y a round of applause. I actually want to do the opposite.
At 25, I am sick to death of the millennial workaholic.
I understand it's not all their fault. Our generation has been conditioned to equate busyness with hard work, which according to Cody Delishtraty at The Atlantic, implies "good character, a strong education, and either present or future affluence. The phrase 'I can't, I'm busy', sends a signal that you’re not just an homme sérieux, but an important one at that."
In 2016, being busy means being important. We read 'hard-work' as moral and virtuous.
But we must be careful not to mistake 20 extra hours of work a week with 'hard-work'. They are simply not the same thing.
I have absolutely no problem with hard-work. In fact, I greatly respect it. I think diligence and rigour are fantastic qualities that should be celebrated at any age. To find meaning and value in the work one does is an absolute privilege that not everyone is lucky enough to experience.
The issue is this:
If how many hours you work is your yardstick for success, then there's a problem.
Completing your work in the required hours and maintaining balance is not something to be scoffed at. Nor is it a sign of laziness. Bev White, managing director of Penna Consulting, says “In order for us to be productive in our free time, not just in our working lives, we need to have time off". In fact, "It makes good business sense if you have mentally and physically healthier people working in your organisation.”
Delishtraty argues in his article To Work Better, Work Less, that we should not equate leisure time with wasted time. Rather, it is necessary for "...reflecting, for inspiring creativity, and for saving up brainpower and energy for future work."
Henry Ford found that the more his employees worked, the less productive they became. This is a recognised phenomenon referred to as Parkinson's law, which states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". In short, if you have 40 hours to complete a task, it will take you 40 hours. If you have 80, it will take 80. This is no doubt why working mothers are said to be some of the most productive employees in the workforce.
Research also indicates that focus cannot be sustained for much more than 5o hours a week.
Twenty somethings discuss selling out. Post continues below.
So when I hear a friend or acquaintance talk about their 90 hour week, I refuse to bow down and praise them for their hard-work.
I find the millennial comment "Ah, I worked 14 hours today" to be the ultimate humble brag disguised as a complaint.
Not to mention that talking about how hard you're working does not make for particularly compelling conversation.
Sure, in your early 20s you can afford to work ridiculous hours, because you have the energy and generally don't have dependents. You're new to the workforce in an increasingly competitive market and want to establish yourself in the industry.
My fear is that the 'workaholic' will become a feature of our identity. It is at this age that habits are formed. That we discover and determine our value as an adult.
In a world where we are increasingly connected, where our laptops and phones allow us to be 'at' work every minute of everyday, the ability to differentiate between work and leisure has never been more difficult or more important.
It doesn't help when we read memoirs, or watch movies, or hear public figures talk about how they're incapable of taking a holiday. We've heard the story of Roxy Jacenko checking her emails only hours after giving birth, or Kevin Rudd who sleeps only three hours a night.
Why do we know such personal details about these public figures? Because they tell us. Because these are features of their lives they want us to know about.
The belief that dedicating yourself to your work is "inherently noble" is so deeply ingrained in our culture that it is difficult to critique.
But it is time that we start embracing and valorising balance in the same way. Work hard by all means.
But do not make it where your identity begins and ends.
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