Do You Work Hard?

Of course you do. We all do. What a dumb question, right?

Super dumb, especially here in the US. I was listening to a podcast all about if Americans work hard and if we do, do we work too hard?

I think the answer is yes, but I currently work in an industry where 40 hours a week is considered a vacation. VACATION PEOPLE. There is something wrong with that.

It argued that because of our Protestant background we come from people who believe that by working hard you can get ahead and live well. We work more than any Western industrialized nation on the planet with only 2 weeks of vacation per year. Last year the Department of Labor estimated that Americans left more than 2 million vacation days on the table. Which worked out to roughly $1000 of free work per person in the US. Why don’t we take our vacation days?

I’ll tell you why, because the minute you look like you’re taking it easy you feel guilty or think that because you aren’t working as hard as Bill then your boss doesn’t take you as seriously, doesn’t want to give you as much responsibility and you could be next in the line of layoffs that happen. I know that for artists and free lancers we aren’t as likely to be laid off in the same sense as corporate workers are. But if you are perceived as being slack or a less hard worker than your peers you will not be asked back. Period.

And this makes sense. Who wants someone around who doesn’t work as hard as everyone else? As one who prefers a good hammock over work I say that I find you people who are always “slammed with work” a little annoying.

But how do those of us who spend our days indoors working on computers compare to those who do manual labor picking our food? Or even those of us within a single industry? Do flight attendants work harder than pilots? Do they work harder than the ground crew refueling the plane? Ok, air travel is a bad example.

How about in theatre? Do I work harder than the crew? They lift heavy things for a living, climb ridiculous heights and do incredibly dangerous things. I create paperwork. But do I work any less hard? 

And in all honestly, there’s not much we can do about this. Trying to change a culture deeply ingrained in us is difficult. Many, many years will pass before we are like the French who take eight weeks of vacation. And I resent that we are called a nation of “workaholics”. I don’t think many of us like work anymore than we like leaving our family every day out of our cozy beds to go spend hours upon hours with people who drive us crazy. But it’s part of the culture and the only way to steer a ship this big is through gradual small changes over many generations.

So what can we do? As a freelancer, I can get my work done when it needs to get done. Don’t volunteer your time, don’t offer to pick up extra projects without the extra pay. This is not to say to do the bare minimum. Do your job, but nothing more.

And teach your kids that.

And the next time a bill comes through Congress mandating more paid vacation, pay attention and tell them to freaking vote FOR it. This bill crashed harder than the plane in Lost. Oh, I’m so full of airplane stuff today.

So, do you work hard?

This entry was posted in financial planning, happiness, jobs, personal finance, stress. Bookmark the permalink.

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