Clayton*, a friend and senior vice president at a large multinational firm, lamented that since Covid-19 hit, he had been working 16-hour days and was exhausted. ‘I have never worked so much in my life,’ he confessed.
With millions of people working from home, and companies like Google and Facebook, rethinking their strategies with remote, as opposed to on-campus, workers, the new ‘normal’ has become commuting from the bedroom to the kitchen to the home office.
Companies like Home Depot and Lowes are reporting record quarters with people renovating their homes now that so many employees live and work at their own HQ. Manhattan is emptying out as many people have been mandated by their companies to work remotely. Why would you live in a $2 million one-bedroom apartment with your three-year old, when you can buy a three-bedroom home outside of The City and have a backyard for the same price?
Now that we are working from home and not commuting, are we actually more efficient or are we like Clayton and working longer hours because it is so convenient and tempting to do so? Prior to Covid-19, an article published in the Harvard Business Review illustrated how the average executive and business owner was already working 72 hours per week by the time one included responding to late night, and early morning texts, additional meetings, and an array of demands that keep us connected for longer periods.
The article also suggested that we are wasting a significant amount of time. In a joint poll by Gallup and Wells Fargo, it was found that over fifty percent of small business owners work 6 days per week. 39% admitted to working while on their last vacation. Gone are the 5 day work weeks, especially in America and up are the countless Zoom meetings, responding to texts and emails, Slack messages, and the non-stop flow of back and forth.
For people like Clayton who used to decompress on the drive home from work, and tended to leave when the rest of the staff did at 5:00 p.m., his workday now begins at 6:00 a.m. with meetings in Europe and ends late in the evening with meetings in Asia. He had some of these meetings before however with so many people working from home, he has observed an increase in the demand for his time which does not bode well as a father of a young family.
“I used to listen to music or return some calls from the car,” he reflects, “and then I would come home and have time with my wife and kids. Now, I just get up, work, stay in my home office, and work some more. Family time has been cut in half and on top of it, there was no family vacation this year.”
Many people like Clayton are working longer however it doesn’t mean that they are working smarter. An Inc. Magazine article points to the fact that the majority of people are wasting 21.9 hours per week. On what?
Here is how the time-wasting hours stack up:
- 6.8 hours on tasks they could hire an assistant to do.
- 3.9 hours scrolling non-work social media.
- 3.4 hours returning low value emails.
- 3.2 hours dealing with interruptions.
- 1.8 hours dealing with low value requests.
- 1.8 hours putting out preventable fires.
- 1.0 hours in non-productive meetings.
In other words, if you multiple 21.9 by 4, you get 87.6 hours per month that we waste. Based on a 72 hour work week, we are fettering over a week of our lives every month on things that are a low priority, do not make us more money, and are a colossal waste of time.
What could we do with that time?
Get the workout in. Play with our kids. Spend time with our partner. Meditate. Chill out. Find more ways to increase our profit and decrease our expenditures.
The only way to reclaim some balance is to say ‘no.’ ‘No’ to the excess meeting, returning every single email, jumping to attention at a 5:00 a.m. Slack message, and keeping our mobiles with us 24/7. It is perfectly fine to set boundaries and people tend to respect people who guard their time more than those who flagrantly allow every distraction.
If you want to free yourself from epic time wasting then ‘no’ must become your favorite word. Like we teach our children, ‘no means no’ and setting those boundaries and being firm in resolve of not wasting time is a self-preservation necessity. Like I said to Clayton, ‘life is too short and at the end of the day, we aren’t going to wish we had worked harder. We are going to wish we had worked smarter and spent more time with our families.’