Are We Working Too Hard at Working?

May 2018

woman sitting in cafe working on laptop

Image: iStock

It’s May Day, where nations celebrate both spring and International Workers Day. The latter is often associated with socialist nations, but its birthplace is the United States in the 1880s, with Chicago at its epicenter.

It is easy to forget the conditions our ancestors were forced to endure in order to earn a living. Minimum 12-hour workdays. No meal or bio breaks. No weekends off or shortened, if any, vacations. Wait! We’re talking about times more than a century ago, right? Why then, are so many of us still working under similar conditions, only now they are self-imposed?

The truth is, many of us have lost control of our work lives. In an effort to keep up or appease our bosses or clients, we’ve forgotten we have hard-fought limits to what people can ask of us. Granted, labor laws were created for those in manual labor, but even those in tech and creative industries need disciplined days. Otherwise, we risk working ourselves to death.

Tech companies learned decades ago that by offering on-site perks, like snacks, meals, childcare, dry cleaning, transportation to and from the office, etc., they both earned kudos and a kept workforce. But some visionary CEOs are realizing the opposite approach works too. Consider Jason Fried, founder and CEO of project management software Basecamp. Those employed by Fried work 32-hour weeks during summer months and are paid $5,000 to go on vacation (among other eye-popping bennies).

During a TED Talk, Fried said he spent a decade asking people where they go to get work done. “I’ll hear things like, the porch, the deck, the kitchen. I’ll hear things like an extra room in the house, the basement, the coffee shop, the library. … You almost never hear someone say, ‘the office.’ But businesses are spending all this money on this place called the office, and they’re making people go to it all the time, yet people don’t do work in the office.”

Twirling Tiger Media is a virtual company by design. We are comprised of creatives who work at home or wherever inspiration hits and who set their own hours. Sure, we sometimes put in 12- or 14-hour days — even on weekends — and work through lunch or dinner to meet an aggressive deadline. But those are exceptions; not the norm.

So on this day dedicated to both workers and the onset of spring, we encourage you to make room in your daily lives to work less and go outside to play more. You might be surprised at how much everything improves.

Anne Saita