Most job specifications praise candidates who can work themselves to death. Obviously, they wouldn’t put it in those words, instead hiring managers claim to seek a ‘working hard candidate who can go the extra mile’. The hard work culture is so ingrained in our society, it doesn’t matter that employees have a life outside work. An employee who works hard is always seen in a positive light by an employer.
Since we’re born we’re told that working hard will take us far, working hard is all you need to flourish. Our parents and grand parents have planted this idea, that with sacrifice and effort anything is possible. But is it really? How many times have we been working hard pushing ourselves to the limit, only to find ourselves exhausted and unable to accomplish our goals?
An individual who works hard is very likely to suffer burn out and sooner or later will leave the company, feeling undervalued. Working excessively hard is not a wise path, working hard can lead to unhealthy habits. It drains our vital energy and makes us unfocused, as there is only so much we can do during a day.
The hard work culture began with the industrial revolution. During those times people worked in the cotton mills for fourteen hours a day. Working hard meant earning enough to pay for accommodation in the newly formed urban centres, and if you were lucky enough decent food. Women and children worked for long hours in appealing conditions. Eighteenth century Britain required workers to produce an increasing number of goods. Factory owners had to keep those machines rolling and the workers working.
Fast forward the twentieth century during the war years, working hard was an act of patriotism. Men and women joined forces and worked hard for the common good. Then, during the 60’s working hard became the core value of an up and coming corporate culture. With women already part of the workforce, climbing the corporate ladder was the right thing to do for those ambitious enough.
The Corporate world embraced the hard work culture. Still today those who work outside their normal working hours are met with a financial reward, and a pat on the back by the managers. Companies forget they are dealing with humans rather than numbers.
Working hard in the twenty first century is a sign of incongruence, more and more people are starting to take seriously the work/life balance. It’s clear that being unable to enjoy life outside work can harm any career.
We are creative creatures; we need to feed our souls in order to come out with creative ideas. There is no way a twelve hours’ work day can give meaning, and deep feeling of purpose or job satisfaction. Meaningful work is found living, connecting, exploring and experimenting.
Still, the hard work culture seems to be the norm in many work places. Managers praise individuals who come to work earlier and leave late. They create an environment of competition and fake praise.
They ignore the fact that the maximum hours the human brain can focus on demanding tasks are three. Evidently, it depends on the job, but after time brain power begins to decrease.
The reason why managers idealise the hard work culture, is because they want someone who can do more. They rely on those individuals to push the company forward. They believe a successful company is made of hard working individuals. Sadly, being in the ‘be productive’ mode all the time won’t benefit any company in the long run, the ‘going overboard’ hard working employee at some point will feel defeated.
Instead of looking for someone who can work hard, hiring managers should seek people who are able to automate unnecessary tasks, or those doing cool side projects.
Companies should embrace the times we’re living in, remote culture is on the rise for a reason, Millennials don’t want to feel stuck in an office all day long. A healthy work/ life balance is crucial to keep the workforce motivated.
And happy workers would benefit any company. Creating a flexible environment where people feel valued for their skills, and not the number of hours they put in is the success of any company. Hopefully, the hard work and no play culture one day will be a thing of the past.