What’s the Opposite of Being Busy?

When we ask someone the question ‘how are you?’. The typical response used to sound something like “good thanks”.

Today, it’s more likely to sound something like – ‘busy, flat out, swamped, crazy, run off my feet’.

Research published earlier this year suggests that busyness and overwork rather than a leisurely lifestyle have become the status symbol of todays workforce.

We want people to see that we are ‘busy’ because it portrays the image that our time is scarce and we are in demand, making us feel more valuable. 

Whilst it was once the imagery of tennis, boats and holidays that signalled a prestigious status it has now been replaced with sleepless nights, long hours and #hustle. I recently heard a story of c-suite executives competing with one another on how little they slept the night before. 

Whilst being constantly ‘busy’ might make us look important, without balance it will only make us feel unhealthy. According to a Medibank study, unhealthy employees take 9 times more sick leave and on average lose 6 days of productivity per year due to presenteeism, impacting on the bottom line of your organisation. 

So should we stop working hard? Take more holidays and just relax all the time?

Sounds nice. However.

I would suggest that the opposite of ‘being busy’ doesn’t have to mean ‘being lazy’. 

It isn’t just about working less. But rather it’s removing the assumption and culture that your value is in some way linked to the number of hours you work.

As leaders we have a responsibility to shape this culture and model it and as individuals we have the responsibility to take control of our own wellbeing and have the conversations where needed. 

As a leader maybe this looks like:

  • Rewarding outcomes and productivity not just long hours.
  • Celebrating innovative ideas that reduce workload and cost. 
  • Beginning a conversation with the employee who consistently works late to understand why? 
  • Providing appropriate staffing. 

Perhaps for you personally it means 

  • Leading by example through modelling a work/life balance.
  • Turning off your phone when you go home at the end of the day to be present with family or friends.
  • Taking your full annual leave entitlements without guilt. 
  • Finding systems to support your workload to become more effective and productive. 
  • Starting conversation with your manager about flexible working arrangements.

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