Monday, April 11, 2011

#100 - Working vs. Living

"I'm taking what they're giving 'cause I'm working for a livin'." - Huey Lewis and the News
"Work, work, work. Work, work, work." Mel Brooks as Gov. William J. Le Petomane in Blazing Saddles

Some time over the last month or so, I seem to have crossed the line from someone with a job to someone bordering on being a workaholic. And I'm not all that happy about it.

Last week, I worked a little over 60 hours. Three of the previous four work weeks were over 50 hours, and the remaining week was almost 50 hours.

There are those who say that in this economy I should be thankful to have a job. However, I suspect many employers count on people having exactly that mentality and keeping quiet as more work is piled on them. I know I've kept quiet. Employers rely on our distorted sense of responsibility with the end result that many of us put our employers ahead of our families or our own well-being.

My developing theory about this is that workload is the individual equivalent of the theory regarding highway expansion. That theory basically states that as highway capacity increases (additional lanes, new roads, etc.) the level of traffic or traffic load will increase to fill the additional new capacity.

In terms of the workplace, the way this plays out is that, as you increase the number of hours you work (presumably in order to catch up or even get ahead), the workload increases to fill that additional capacity. As a result, I end up no further along than when I was working 40 hours a week.

That's why I cringe whenever I hear the latest report on productivity in this country. Yes, we all are doing more with our hours at work, but at what cost? In an age where workers are disposable parts, we all try to make ourselves seem more valuable by putting in 60, 70, 80 hours a week, thereby hastening the pace at which we, too, must be disposed of because we've burned out like a light bulb.

There are those who tell me "think of the paycheck you'll get" which contains a tacit assumption that money is the most important thing in life. It's not. It can't buy you love; it can only rent you lust. It can't buy you happiness; it can only buy you stuff to fill the empty spaces and create the illusion of happiness. I know, I've tried that approach.

A former colleague once uttered what remains one of the best pieces of wisdom I have ever picked up. As he was leaving, he told me "I work to live. I don't live to work." I've always thought of those as words to live by. Lately, it seems the balance has shifted in the opposite direction, It's time for me to reverse course and soon.

On a side note: This is my 100th post on this blog. I never thought I'd get this far. At some point, I thought I would become more focused in my posts in terms of topics, but this blog has remained somewhat random, thereby living up to its name. It has in turns been therapy, rant, attempt at humor, heartfelt, but hopefully not boring.

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