By Bryce Bower, Editor in Chief
Business or Busyness?
Building off of what I wrote last week, there is a serious lack of quality in news, entertainment, and media in general. How do we bring back good content? By slowing down.
At the dawn of email, people treated it like regular snail mail. You could go a week or two without a reply and that would seem normal. Nowadays, many people have more than 100 new emails every morning when they arrive at work. This always makes me think of a Calvin and Hobbes comic I read years ago, as seen in the featured image of this article. The lines, “Improved technology just increases expectations… If we wanted more leisure, we’d invent machines that do things LESS efficiently” struck me as silly years ago, but have begun to resonate with me lately.
Everyone expects instant gratification, you can see it with the “BuzzFeed/clickbait style” of news and entertainment. Everyone wants their TV shows streamed on demand, no one has time to make a healthy meal from scratch, etc. This is a deadly when combined with increased expectations. These poor excuses for news articles are a response to people’s lack of free time. But it is more than just news content, people are not taking time to make sure they have an overall good quality of life. Our culture does not give us enough time to work, sleep, and live a balanced and healthy lifestyle. Do you feel busier than you were 10 years ago? If so, do you feel happier and more fulfilled?
America needs to slow down or it will burn out. If you want to see burnout, look no further than Japan or Korea. Recently, the Korean government had to mandate a 52 hour maximum work week. This was in response to so many people having mental and physical health issues due to stress. Some of my Korean friends have explained to me that staying late is expected in their culture. You never leave the office before the boss, and working upwards of 60 hours or more is the norm in many industries (even if you are only paid for 50).
If the overbearing East Asian work schedule is the dark side, then the light side would be Western Europe. France has a 35 hour work week with mandatory five weeks (!) paid vacation. People falsely assume the French are lazy, inefficient, or lack a work ethic because of this. On the contrary, France has the highest GDP per hour of work of any European country, and the 3rd highest ratio of the G20 countries. That means they work 35 hours a week, take 2 hour lunch breaks, make their meals from scratch, and still manage to be more productive than other countries who work much more.
I feel this is a perfect reflection of what I talked about last week: we should strive for quality over quantity. Not just in what we watch or read, but in what we do and how we work. Multitasking is doing half the work in half the time.
Slow Down or Burn Out
During a question and answer session with Amazon I saw, the speaker was asked, “what does Amazon do to help with employee burnout?” The response from the employee giving the presentation was: “Nothing.” It is expected that you put in a couple years at Amazon, and they grind you down to the bone. You eventually burn out and move on, and they bring in the next poor sap to rinse and repeat. A couple months ago, the Onion put out a brilliant satirical article. It was titled, “Jeff Bizos Tables Latest Breakthrough Cost-cutting Idea After Realizing It’s Just Slaves”. I can honestly say that when I first saw the headline on Reddit, I was not sure if it was satire or not.
It boggles the mind, but the developed world seems to think that being busy is a badge of honor. I swear people compete with each other to see who is the most overworked. Even at Thunderbird, I hear things like “don’t pretend that you are busy unless you are a full time student and have children and a job and are club president and are taking FORAD…” I am exaggerating a little, but it seems to me that people are put into only two categories:
- someone who is way too busy, to an unhealthy extent
- someone who is considered an unmotivated and useless member of society
Where is the middle ground? Why is it so difficult to be considered a productive, diligent worker AND have time to exercise, maintain personal relationships, and sleep 8 hours a night? I think the problem lies in our priorities. When you fail to make your own health a priority, you will be willing to put work over everything. I wish America would adopt some of the German business practices that combat this mentality. In many German businesses, you will NEVER be expected to check email outside of work or on weekends and holidays. Work staying at work, what a novel thought. It shouldn’t take “German engineering” to come up with an idea as simple as this.
I believe that if America does slow down, we will be able to enjoy things for their content again, and not just for their convenience. The only way to bring back quality content is if our culture says it is okay to stop and smell the roses.