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We Really Aren’t Working as Hard as We Say We Are

by Lynette Silva

Burning the midnight oilRecognize This! – A good sign of a misguided approach to measuring value at work is when we game the major mechanism of measuring that value.

We have a problem at work. We seem to have jumped ahead to robot era, forgetting that we’re really humans. Humans with volatile emotions, a need to sleep, competitive and compassionate natures, complex lives. We are messy. And we simply don’t know how to deal with that mess well.

Case in point – Yes, we work too many hours, but we also exaggerate the number of hours we work. This article highlights recent research showing “31 percent of the men and 11 percent of the women [at a high-powered consulting firm] managed to moderate their work schedule while still looking like they were cranking out 80 or 90 hours a week.”

So, what’s the big deal? We care more about butts-in-seats face time (or the appearance of it) than we do about actual productivity. In her excellent book Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte pointed to research showing that, in terms of work actually produced, French workers (who work 35 hour weeks) are more productive than US workers. We’re demanding overwork from ourselves and others for little to no benefit.

And this in endemic in certain industries, especially for summer interns. It’s a sign of a broad system failure when it’s major business news when a major financial services organization tells interns to “only” work 17 hours a day and not sleep in the office.

That’s why the WorkHuman 2015 conference rang so true for me. I read too much every day from sources across industries about how we are, in fact, working quite inhumanely. Preparing for a panel discussion I had the deep honor and privilege to lead, I learned even more about just how deeply we’ve dug this pit of false productivity. (Check out the links at the bottom of this post for reviews of the panelists’ books.)

Tim Leberecht, one of those panelists and author of The Business Romantic, shared his insights on why WorkHuman matters in a blog post here. To summarize the key points (but really, read the full post):

  • Work-life integration: catering to the body and soul
  • Purpose: inspired by something greater than yourself
  • Workplace experience: designing for mystery, delight, and play
  • Happiness is overrated
  • The ROI of meaning? Meaning!
  • HR and marketing can be the great humanizers

Where do you see the most inhumanity at work? How would you infuse more humanity into your own workplace?

WorkHuman Panelist Book Reviews


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We Really Aren’t Working as Hard as We Say We Are
We have a problem at work. We seem to have jumped ahead to robot era, forgetting that we’re really humans.

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