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Our Time Paradigm


27 Mar 2017 |

Our Time Paradigm

By Natalie Janse van Rensburg – Agile Consultant, IQ Business

My zest for writing this piece comes out of a deep-seated frustration at the guilt I feel for craving work-life balance, in a world that still associates long hours at the office with productivity, commitment and an appetite for success.

Our perception of long hours as a measure of high productivity or valuable output has been scientifically challenged since the beginning of the 1900s, and yet it remains embedded in our culture.
We proclaim sustainability, but do we live it? Do our company systems support it? Does our culture encourage it? Or are we still required to choose between a balanced life and a successful career?

Recently, I read an article about the work-life balance in Denmark and felt a longing for the relief that must come with such a culture. This may not be the case in every industry within or throughout Denmark, yet it does beg the question as to whether the hours we work are as valuable and necessary as we think.

We speak about what we need to do to keep up with our demanding, immediate-satisfaction-seeking society that moves and progresses at an exponential rate.
Do we realise, though, that we are that society and therefore we are setting the pace?

Is it beneficial to the person, team, and company to have a young CA working 12-14 hour days because he needs to ‘earn his place’? Or a candidate attorney paginating pages ‘til 7 pm every night to earn her stripes? Is it beneficial for your children to have you away on a Saturday at a work function? Would you actually be more productive if you got a good night’s sleep and had something other than Red Bull for breakfast?

Numerous studies and articles have highlighted both the negative impact working long hours has on our physical and mental health, engagement at work, and overall productivity, as well as the lack of correlation between the increase in hours, worked and an increase in productivity.
Surely these hours are neither good for us nor the companies for which we work!
So why do we still do it?

Would ‘taking the time’ to refill our energy supplies, before they become even close to being depleted, actually increase our productivity, innovation potential, and engagement at work? Would taking a walk and contemplating life (and the current challenges), having coffee with a friend, being early to your kid’s concert, pottering around the house or learning to play an instrument be more beneficial than some extra office hours?
Could having a good balance between personal and work life actually help me deliver more value to my company?