Advertising like law, journalism, technology, engineering, medicine, and other professions demands countless hours from its workers. This, despite damning evidence that productivity and creativity fall flat after about six hours of concentrated work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American works 44 hours per week, or 8.8 hours per day. A 2014 national Gallup poll put the average number at 47 hours per week, or 9.4 hours per day, with many saying they work 50 hours per week. In demanding, competitive industries like tech and finance, professionals work in excess of 60 hours a week as a rule and are available constantly by smartphone.
When did performative workaholism become a lifestyle?
The question comes from Erin Griffith, a New York Times journalist based in the newspaper’s San Francisco bureau. Her latest article is about Millenials pretending to love their work and how employers routinely exploit this labor pool.
In San Francisco, where I live, I’ve noticed that the concept of productivity has taken on an almost spiritual dimension. Techies here have internalized the idea — rooted in the Protestant work ethic — that work is not something you do to get what you want; the work itself is all. Therefore any life hack or company perk that optimizes their day, allowing them to fit in even more work, is not just desirable but inherently good
If you need to pause for a barf break, I understand.
Back Away from the Work Religion Slowly
The agency business has been overworking its horses for years and getting away with it. There are as many sad stories as there are dysfunctional teams.
Maybe you have worked in a soul-sucking agency culture where you were routinely asked to come in on weekends and stay at the office into the wee hours, night after night. Maybe you felt obligated to stay late even though your work was done. If so, can I ask how did all that work out for you? Were you handsomely rewarded for your efforts? Or did you simply get to keep your job at the shameless sweatshop?
Toxic agency cultures are like fraternities. Once you’ve made it through the hazing period and been accepted as a full-fledged member, it’s increasingly likely that you will become a code enforcer who makes sure no one escapes the
Griffith’s article is the kind of demystifying business journalism I’d like to see much more of. Here’s another keen observation from the front lines:
For congregants of the Cathedral of Perpetual Hustle, spending time on anything that’s nonwork related has become a reason to feel guilty.
Automatons Don’t Deal In Human Insights
A lot of creative directors and agency owners say, “It’s all about the work.” What they don’t say is, “We’re perfectly willing to make you unhappy in order to make us famous and rich.”
This is not complicated—people who are overworked and unhappy at work are no good to themselves or anyone else. Go outside and play! Because that’s how you loosen up and find a way to pull amazing ideas out of thin air.