40 Hour Work Weeks, Are you Drinking the COOLAID?

“Our People are our greatest assets”. We have heard that over and over. Check out your company’s website and I bet there is a quote very similar somewhere on the culture or home page. If you work for a public company, your annual report probably has some type of “people” statement. Yet we continue to see work place stress increase as we all struggle to handle the overflow of work.

Technology only adds to the stress and overload as management can communicate electronically 24×7, and most do. HR teams are now dealing with the complications of worker burnout never seen at such high levels. And yet companies and organizations continue to push harder everyday. Some use terms like continuous improvement and striving for excellence in their explanation for workplace demands. Employees cannot even take a day off without being hit with 150 emails or 20 voice mails to respond to. Unplugging is no longer an option for many…

Books like Tim Ferris’s 4 hour work week…are fun diversions from the reality we live in…but not realistic (except for Tim).

So how do we stop or at least slow down the madness? Several organizations are now instituting no email weekends and even rules about not sending emails at certain times of the day (or after hours), others have put in protocols for reasonable response times and even how email is used. To me that’s a band-aid . We need to work differently…Set boundaries and simplify conversations. In my new role 82% of my emails the first 2 weeks were cc’s. I like to be informed, but do I really need to have 4/5’s of my email be ass covering or fyi emails? It was the same at each organization I have worked for the past decade, it’s just that daily emails have increased from 50 to 200 a day. that’s only work, then I have personal and a part-time job with email to. I estimate over 4 hours of reading email a day during the week and another hour plus on each day on weekends. that’s 22 hours minimum a week of inbound communication…Oh, and we have to respond to a portion of them…lets add another 11 hours a week for responses or our own emails…33 hours a week at a computer screen typing and reading…and that’s in a good week. Lets add our phone for texting and email another 7 or 8 hours a week (and I am not a big texting/instant messaging person)… now we are up to the proverbial 40 hrs. before we actually do anything… When I started working for Macy’s in 1985 we had no email or cell phones. I got my job done in the allotted time. It was hard work being a junior executive in a major retail business. I even put in 50-55 hour weeks, however I had more time to think and to enjoy my time off. I am trying to set boundaries in my new role minimizing communication between 7pm and 7am. Its hard and I am not sure if I can stop or influence the madness to slow down…It makes me thirsty.

Anyone have some coolaid to drink???


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