We’ve all had that dinner table conversation at some point in the last five years: “I’m working twice as hard as I used to, haven’t had a pay rise in years, and the few perks I once enjoyed are ancient history. What am I doing this all for?” The answer is simple: survival. That may be a harsh reality to accept, especially when you’re squishing onto a train at eight in the morning, feel like you’ve hardly seen your toddler all week, and have no cash left a whole week before payday. However, it is the reality. But while we may be “enduring” this all for the foreseeable future, the key to getting through it to the other, hopefully brighter, side is to work smarter, not harder.
Working long hours solves nothing, says Jane Downes, career coach with Clearview Coaching and author of The Career Book – Help for the Restless Realist. “We need to work smartly. Trying to put a limit on it is tough, and while I would say you may need to work late at times, if a project demands that, when it becomes an issue or the standard or culture within an organisation, something is out of synch. If you cannot stay on top of the workload, or aren’t working smartly, that needs to be rectified.” Jane says the idea of work/life balance has had to evolve since the downturn. “We now call it work/life blending as opposed to work/life balance. We need to blend our work with our life. It’s scary, but that’s the reality. The people who are best at this are usually at a more senior level, because they put a value on their time within work, and make no apologies for leaving at a certain time. Plus, they are so effective at what they do, that they become invaluable to their employer.”
In her new book, Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Happier Life (WH Allen, approx €20, out now), Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, says we need to reevaluate our priorities if we are to live well. Fully aware of the effects that burnout can have on one’s body and soul, she says that to achieve a happy life, one needs to reassess what success means, moving away from monetary value and towards a balanced body and mind. She says sleep deprivation, being “plugged in” 24/7, overworking, and losing connection with our family and friends, as well as our sense of empathy, just doesn’t work. A successful life, argues Huffington, must include what she calls “the third metric” – wellbeing, wisdom, wonder, compassion and giving. Breaking that down, we need to a) sleep more, b) live healthily, c) turn off our smartphones and take a look around us now and then, d) listen to and understand others, especially our children, e) meditate, practise mindfulness, and/or take up a bit of yoga, and f) give back.
Jane Downes has seen a huge demand for wellbeing programmes in companies and says employers are recognising that their staff are burnt out and it’s stopping them from working effectively. However, this is Ireland, home to a whole host of economic problems. So, while we take our hats off to Arianna Huffington, and hope her words resonate throughout the corporate world, we must return to deal with the current reality. Between staff cuts and reduced salaries, people are working harder for less now. And so they’re lacking motivation. However, while Jane believes there’s no need to put in long hours all the time, she does feel this is a reality we must accept, and we must work to make ourselves valuable to employers. She advises we take stock and question whether the industry we work in is potentially on the up and will do well in the future, or whether it’s in decline. If it’s the latter, she suggests upskilling to stay fresh and relevant.
To read the full article What Would You Do To Keep Your Job, by Meg Walker, pick up the April issue of IMAGE, on newstands now.