Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Hard work never killed anyone ... or did it?

A discussion on Tom Peters Blog got me thinking about the merits of working hard and the impact that has on our health.

We all have different levels of motivation for work.

From my self-analysis I know:

• I have a very high work ethic.
• I work very hard.
• I love work.
• I’ve always put in far more hours than I’ve been paid.
• I’ve always given plenty of my time free.
• If I have a poor boss I work for ‘me’ rather than for him/her.

Question to self - Do I have a sensible work/life balance?

I believe I have a reasonable balance but others may say I spend too much time working and not enough time relaxing. I would counter that I get a great buzz from work which is a positive stress for me.

I know there are times when I don't even realise I have become dull and tired. For instance Annie and I have not had a holiday for 3 years and I’m pretty sure if we were to go away for a week I would very quickly realise how much I need a break.

So what do we do about this?

I think we have to create our own coping mechanisms. We must listen to our bodies. The body has a very effective habit of getting it absolutely right when it hints that we should slow down. If we don’t listen to the whisper of our body we may the victim of a very loud shout.

Self healthcare is always the most effective healthcare because we have to justify our unhealthy actions to the person in the mirror and that can be painful.

I don’t think it is a straightforward one size fits all answer to the question “Is hard work a good or bad thing?”

My own philosophy – learned through my late beloved Dad is that we get nothing for nothing. That what he always told me and it’s stuck. I hope I am wise enough to listen to my body's whisper before it needs to shout at me.

One thing I do know is that being self employed for the last four and a half years and previously working for 35 years in large organisations feels very different. I've always worked hard but it feels like I work much harder now and my job satisfaction is far higher than it has ever been.

I guess I am in the camp that says hard work is good for me. I hope I am wise enough to know when I am working too hard.

How’s your ‘work hard’ versus ‘health’ balance looking particularly in these challenging recessionary times?


Rocky said...

I briefly worked with a fellow that did not think as you. We were given the task of digging a trench with shovels. It was hard labor. The job supervisor came by and told the fellow that the shovel was going to kill him. This was because he was really laboring and his technique was one that caused him to work harder than usual. The fellow looked up at the supervisor, stuck the shovel in the ground and said, no it's not and walked away never to be seen again. He believed that hard work would definitely kill him. I don't know what ever happened to him, but I immediatly thought of that story when I read your headline.

J.KANNAN said...

You are absolutely right, Treveor and in this context there is a good old saying "NOBODY EVER DIED OF HARD WORK", on the contrary, have heard of people died due to they "HARDLY WORK"

My personal analysis also some what reconciles and resembles with that of yours and the last one (6), I too had in my mind then, inspired me to be on "My Own" and I laid the foundation stone way back in 1989- to work for my self and to my satisfaction rather than doing it for mediocre Bosses.

I think we travel in the similar type of boats. Me and my wife after I have started on my own and later, quitting Indian Railways, she joined me as "MY BOSS" (Managing Director) had very rare occasions to taking a break for holidays and "WORK IS WORSHIP" was our holiday theme.

Yes, one has to take & accept the whispher from the body, as the whispers originates from the mind and abide by he whisphers to avoid being the victim of loud shouts. According to me, one, once having decided to work, hard work is good and in that way I am with you in your camp and probably you can give me some work to perform with desired effect and result!!!!!

My Work hard Vs Health Balance has not made any impact so far, excepting in the days of recession the work has been reduced as companies are trimming their cost towards consultancy/training programmes etc.-Not a good gesture and sign in the interst of the compan and the welfare of its employess. I wish the trend will change in a phased manner in the near future.


mike said...

There is a difference between "hard work" and "over-work." Do you spend 14 hours at work every day? Do you go in on weekends most of the time? Do you do these things because it is expected, even though you have nothing pressing? That would be over-work. The Japanese have even developed a word for death due to over-work--karoshi. For death and ill health to have become so prevalent in a culture for there to have been a word developed to specifically describe the circumstance is a sad state. I fear sometimes that when things become economically tough we begin to believe that if we just work more hours or work harder we will somehow be thought to be too valuable to be "let go." I don't think it ever works that way. Anyone who is in business for themselves already understands the level of work increases with ownership. Either that, or they are already out of business. Over-work can be diagnosed very easily by examining the effects your work has on your life. If your work is negatively effecting your emotional or physical health then you have graduated from hard work to over-work. As long as it remains a source of "positive stress" as you say, then keep on going and don't pay too much attention to others who may not understand the way you feel, but are simply hoping you will slow down to their level so they don't feel guilty. (?)

My cousin always said that hard work never bothered him. He could sit and watch people do it all day!

Trevor Gay said...

Rocky – a wonderful example thanks. A good moral too that if we do not use the tools we are given properly, effectively and safely then we can suffer bad consequences and yes of course we can die. Working hard is about working effectively as well. I love the story.

Trevor Gay said...

JK – Our career paths follow similar routes – that’s why we share many similar thoughts no doubt. We would make an interesting duo working together of that I am sure Sir! Maybe one day we will have that opportunity – the world is now a very small place

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Mike – I love the way you make the important distinction between ‘over work’ and ‘hard work’ – thank you for that.

I love to work hard but I don’t like to be over worked.

BTW - Your cousin sounds a wise man!

Being self-employed has made me focus much more on outcomes and although I work ‘harder’ nowadays than ever when I was in the corporate world I am not sure I work more hours. I know I am far more productive per hour in the time I put in. That is because every minute is my own and I am not accountable to anyone other than myself and my customer in that order.

We all work at different pace as well of course which is important in this debate. What I see as a ‘quick’ or ‘slow’ response is subjective on my part.

I work quickly and sometimes get impatient at delay. A fault I have had all my life!

J.KANNAN said...

Yes Trevor, I too 'am just like you, can't accept delay and I consider is at as Good not as fault. Let people at work always remember:-

"What you have to "Do" today, Do it today itself or else to-day will become yesterday by tomorrow" and then its of no use to repent.


Trevor Gay said...

Hi JK - yes I see it is 'good' rather than a 'fault' - Sorry I used the wrong word!

Some people work at a much more leisurely pace than me. My style is to respond very quickly and then I can move on. If I have too many things 'pending' I feel the room is cluttered. By quick actions the room has less clutter and it is easier to move around!

Scott Peters said...

I used to subscribe to the theories of hard work---making sure that I was visible at the office, always shuffling things around or on the phone. The phone was always on and people could get in touch with me at any hour.

Then I began to subscribe to smart work. If the labor was going to move my career and pay potential forward, I would focus on the items that gave me the greatest return on time investment.

In our current economic environment, and really bad leadership causing companies and others to fail, I'm not sure what I believe.

I do know this though, I possess loyalty for God, my family, and friends. Outside of that, I don't carry much loyalty or value for Corporate America or big Government...sadly enough.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Scott – I know you and me have very similar views about how abysmal leadership in our corporations demotivates the worker.

The worst leaders I see are people that I would definitely not work for.

Once or twice in my corporate career I had bosses who I did not want to work for – I hung around because I needed the money whilst trying hard to find something that suited me better. I always achieved exit!

Bad leadership ruins so many careers.

I think my personal work motivation is 99% within me rather than from the organisation or from my.

I remain optimistic despite having been unlucky occasionally to be in a poor management system. This is why I mentioned in my post that I work for ‘myself only’ when I am I that type of scenario.

I know you have had much worse experience than me of leaders without integrity and of course I understand how you feel about giving ‘too much.’ I’m sure of one thing however and that is your passion to support folks on the front line which means you will never slip into bad leadership habits. You are a front line supporter!

Keep smiling my friend – BTW – ‘working smarter’ is a great expression and we all need to work smarter!