Do we live to work or work to live?

Full Stack Creator - 019

This is the 19th edition of Full Stack Creator. Not sure if you're counting, but this means the 20th edition is right around the corner! Thanks for joining in, as always.

Over the last week, I have been thinking about a topic for this week's letter, but due to burnout and exhaustion, my brain couldn’t put something together. This got me thinking about why I feel this way. As I thought about it, it started to make more sense, my job – my day job, is consuming my life.

This is not going to be a bitch session. As always, this is about learning, self-reflection, and assessment.

First, let’s define what a job is:

a piece of work, especially a specific task done as part of the routine of one's occupation or for an agreed price

Next, we need to set the expectation of how often society expects us to work. In the US the average employee is expected to work 40 hours a week.

To break this down – a five day week consists of 120 hours. That means, in 5 days we are expected to spend 1/3 of our time working. Based on expected/recommended sleep cycles, we are expected to sleep 8 hours a day. There goes another 1/3 of that time. That only leaves 8 hours a day to live your life. This might be eating, cooking, exercising, being with loved ones, relaxing, etc. In my mind, that is nowhere near enough time. I’ve touched on this briefly in a previous post – Burnt out? - It's not just you, but today I want to go deep into the concept of your job consuming more than just your 40-hour workweek.

Back to my experience.

I work for a company that has a SaaS product for the OTT (over the top) industry. We have a great product. We are one of the top companies in this, albeit niche, industry. I can say that I head the development of that product as their head of product. But if you follow me on social you also see that I never drop a name of said company, other than my LinkedIn, if you like to snoop. This is because I vent a lot about my job on social. Not because I dislike the job itself, being a product manager is an interesting job that can be impactful, but it’s the company. My company is always oversold, understaffed, and always puts the customer first – a stance that I am very against, personally. I have nothing wrong with focusing on meeting the customers' needs or expectations, but never at the expense of the employee. This has never been the case, the employee always comes last. In doing so we are always chasing our tail. All this is just to paint a picture, a common picture of bad leadership, one that many people endure daily and often in the tech space. This has almost become acceptable, not prideful, but acceptable within the right circles. This is similar to the problem of hustle culture.

When you combine the societal norms of 40+ hours, with systemic corporate problems of overwork acceptance – you have employees, scratch that – people, with lives that are only about working.

Do we live to work or work to live?

This is the underlying question. We are in a modern world, with modern technologies, that could empower us to live more FULL lives, rather than pretending it is the Industrial Revolution.

Do you find yourself in a company that expects you to fulfill these norms? Do you need to work set hours, rather than provide quality work in less time? Are you expected to work at the same time as your coworkers, rather than work when you perform best? Most importantly, does the project, the customer, come before you?

I know I fall into all of these situations. I work best from 6-9 am. This is when I think best. I now live on the west coast, but am forced to work east coast hours, never mind I am expected to work way too many hours, my average last week was 11 hours a day.

I would guess most would reply yes to most of these questions. Don’t we want more than this? Don’t we want to work less and live more? Two day weekends are not enough. We have family, friends, personal needs. How are we expected to fulfill them, fulfill ourselves – in the exhausted, burnt out, demoralized moments between working hours?

We have all the tools, all the solutions to make our lives better! Most industries can work remotely, we can work fewer hours, treat employees like people, not machines. The people that need to work in retail, manufacturing, first response, etc – they can work less, without making less. As a people, we can expect less hustle out of each other and expect more humanity.

We have the solutions, we know the problems, we have people willing to fix them, but most people are too scared. Personally, I hope not to take part in this culture for much longer. I hope to pave the way to thinking differently. Maybe inspire others; others with a bigger voice to evoke change. I am trying to start this with my upcoming documentary series – The Gray Area of Remote Work. Once that is complete I plan on spreading those learnings, that story, far and wide. I hope that people will then see the true possibilities of remote.

For the last time, this was not a soapbox, not a session of me explaining my troubles, rather – I wanted to be the first in this community to speak up. We should want more – for ourselves.

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