If we're always connected to work, if we spend less and less time with our family and friends, if we don't take vacations and if we're constantly stressed out, are we doing something wrong as a society?
By Samuel Greengard
A few days ago, the Web lit up with a story about a young girl named Katie who wrote to Google because her father, an employee at the company, worked six days a week and stayed home only on Saturdays. She asked if the company would let him take the day off for his birthday, which was on a Wednesday.
The letter was apparently heartwarming enough that a Google senior manager granted the worker Wednesdays off for the entire month of July. Whether he actually spends this time with his family and daughter, who knows?
The sad reality is that American culture is completely off the grid. This story illustrates the point. It takes a young child to point out to adults that something is very wrong?
Today, almost no professional puts in a 40-hour work week. In fact, many corporate executives and others at Wall Street and law firms pile on 60- or 80-hour weeks. Developers and programmers are notorious for working day and night, sometimes stopping only for a slice or two of pizza and a bathroom break.
Vacations? An April study conducted by online job site Glassdoor found that 75 percent of Americans do not take all of their allotted days off, and 15 percent of them didn't take any vacation time in the last 12 months.
Holidays? The U.S. has the fewest holidays of any developed nation, and it's also the only country in the developed world that doesn't guarantee any paid time off.
As I have written previously, it's one thing to work hard and have a purpose; it's another thing to work hard and have no purpose other than to work. Yes, some people hide behind their seemingly neverending work hours in order to avoid family time and others are afraid of losing their job. But it's also entirely clear that, as a culture, we are so used to the insanity that we accept it as normal.
There's a reason why the business world settled on a 40-hour work week, the Fair Labor Standards Act exists and work-life balance is in the spotlight. Countless studies show that this approach maximizes productivity and minimizes health problems and other issues. But, apparently, past wisdom has little value today.
If we're always connected to work, if we spend less and less time with our family and friends, if we don't take vacations, if we're constantly stressed out, burned out and depressed, we ultimately have to ask a very basic question: What is the purpose of life?
About the Author
Samuel Greengard is a contributing writer for CIO Insight. To read his previous CIO Insight blog post, "Apple Is Your New CIO," click here.