Living a Life of Weisure?

by Fred Lee on 20 May 2009 13 comments

Do you find that you only plan vacations to places that have high-speed internet so you can check your email and make sure things at work are running smoothly? Is your cell phone or Blackberry always at your side while you’re spending so-called “quality time” with your spouse or kids? Do you make sure to include your laptop along with your bathing suit and sunglasses when you pack for trip? And, finally, do you go to these lengths even when you don’t have to?

If so, then welcome to the brave new world of modern working life, which has become so intertwined with our personal lives that they’ve even coined a term for it: weisure-time. Weisure-time is a concept that, besides making us speak like Elmer Fudd, acknowledges the fact that the lines that separate our personal and professional lives are becoming increasingly ambiguous. As we forsake the traditional working hours from 9:00 to 5:00, we stay on the job during every waking moment, assuming that we can’t work while we sleep, though I’m sure someone is working on changing that.

And of course, it works the other way around. Not only will people try to squeeze in as much work as possible during their leisure time, but their social interactions are occurring more and more on the clock, with workers socializing with one another and corresponding with friends and acquaintances at work via email or social networking sites like Facebook.

All of this mixing of work and play is in marked contrast with how things used to be done. In the traditional work environment of previous generations, there were clear lines that demarcated professional life from home life, and though a worker might have worked late or spent a weekend at the office, when he or she went home they left their jobs at the office.

Furthermore, hard work was usually accepted as the price one had to pay to increase their free time. You worked hard in the beginning and climbed the corporate ladder until you reached that idyllic state of having more time to spend at home with friends and family.

That, of course, has all changed. Now, the higher up you get, the more hours you seem to spend working. At the heart of the matter is technology, which one could argue was originally meant to make our lives easier, but now serves the greater purpose of helping us do our jobs, and by extension, work even harder.

Now granted, for some of us, it boils down to the fact that we just love our work, or enjoy at least some aspect it. Many people derive a lot of their identity from their jobs. Combine a fun and social environment to that and why bother looking elsewhere?

It could also simply be an issue of money, which as the saying goes, makes the world go around. Money is an essential part of our very survival, allowing us to function and consume, and in some instances, earn the respect and approval of our peers. So it makes perfect sense that we would want more of it and would be willing to work harder to meet that end, even if it is a bit ironic that the more time you spend obtaining it, the less time you have to enjoy it. After all, more money won’t make up for being an absent spouse or parent.

In light of all this, we keep our foot in the door whenever we can, living with the often times irrational notion that we are indispensable, convincing ourselves that we have to be available at all times to keep work running smoothly, or in certain instances, just to keep our jobs.

But sometimes I can’t help but wonder, at what cost? Sure, having a job is without question a necessary requirement of life, but after a certain level of investment, at what point are we living to work, as opposed to working to live?

Furthermore, though we are usually rewarded handsomely for our time and efforts in form of income, the question I keep coming back to is do I really want to dedicate my life to a company that only values me for what I have to offer (as opposed to my family, who will love me no matter how well I perform)? A company that, in the interest of economic efficiency, will no doubt replace me when someone comes along who can do my job cheaper or more efficiently. Call me crazy, but there is a certain callousness to it all that would make me think long and hard about what I’d be willing to sacrifice.

Maybe the key is striking a balance and keeping things in perspective. Work is important, no doubt about it, but so are our relationships, family, friends, and health. Besides, spending all your free time working is a bit self-indulgent, not unlike ignoring your spouse or kids to watch TV while they are trying to talk to you. That is no way to develop a healthy relationship.

In the end, it is up to each individual to decide, because no two people are the same and everyone does things differently. But it is good to keep it in mind that while work is important, it usually serves a larger purpose, and it might be helpful to always keep that larger purpose in mind, whatever it may be.

And if that larger purpose is to simply make more money, then so be it. But just remember, it’s fairly unusual for people to reach the twilight of their lives and regret not having worked harder or earned more money, but it’s become a cliché to regret the time they’ve lost with their loved ones.
 

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Guest's picture

There seems to be way too much leisure in "Weisure"... I certainly work more than I play and I'm constantly trying to draw the line. Of course I just shoved some paperwork in my handbag thinking, "I can do this at home tonight".

My colleagues and I will continue to work late into the night at our desks as we grumble about the so-called "work/life balance".

Good luck to everyone!

Guest's picture

Are we too busy doing the wrong things for the wrong reasons?
There are tremendous marketing efforts encouraging us to earn more to purchase more, generating higher corporate profits. Society's 'need' to acquire more is deeply embedded. So most of us strive and stress on for new false achievements losing out on some true basic and pleasant experiences in life.

If we are in this endless routine we should consider what Marcus Aurelius had to say 1800 years ago, "Think of what you have rather than of what you lack. Of the things you have, select the best and then reflect how eagerly you would have sought them if you did not have them."

Guest's picture
Brian

What this post, and other post like it, fails to address is the question of "How?". It's great to write about the importance of finding your work/life balance but once I decide I would like to work less, how do I go about making that happen? It's not like I can tell my boss that I am going to start working 32 hours a week and he should cut my pay by 20% to even things out. He will show me the door. Go find a different job? Good luck finding a good job that is only 32 hours a week. Self-employment? This would probably end up being MORE hours and all the added risk, for me, would cause more heartburn than working less hours would alleviate.

While its great to think about important things like this, I would like to see some useful tips for making change happen.

As a sidenote, I'm pretty sure there are plenty of very skilled and smart individuals in India, China, Hungary, etc. who aren't fretting about work/life balance and who would be more than willing to take your job.

Fred Lee's picture

Hi everyone, thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I think in the end, there is no universal answer that will solve everyone's problem, it has to be a decision that the individual makes as to what is more important to him, his free time or making money. There is no right or wrong answer, and it depends on what you value.

Specifically to Brian, I think you're missing the point. The goal is not to find a job that lets you work 32 hours a week, but rather one that doesn't require you to log in well over the 40 hours that you are ethically and (I think) legally bound to. A lot of workers work 60 to 70 hours a week, even when it is not technically required of them, it's simply the cost of getting ahead, or in certain instances, because some people just love work that much. What this requires is sacrificing time in other areas like family, vacation, etc. Surely you know of people who are on their cell phones constantly doing business.

As for practical advice on the "How," there has to be a little common sense on the part of the worker, like knowing when to leave work at the office and focus one's attention on quality time with friends and family. That would be a start. Otherwise, just letting things be until the next work day is another way.

Bear in mind, this advice, and for that matter, the article as a whole, is not about finding a way to work a shorter work week and still get paid full time. The point is working a reasonable amount of time required of us at our full time jobs and not falling into the trap of bringing work home all the time or trying to turn every free moment into a way to do more work.

As for India, China and Hungary are concerned, I agree that there are plenty of people willing to take our jobs. However, I would also argue that if a worker in this country, including you and I, were willing to accept their salaries and their working conditions, we would probably land the job before they did. The question is, at what point is it simply not worth it?

Fred Lee's picture

Thanks for stopping by and chiming in. WW (great name, BTW), as I've mentioned before, the decision has to come from you. At some point we all realize what's important to us and act accordingly. Sometimes it simply entails maintaining the status quo, but when life is bumming you out, then it might be time rethink things.

Grampa Ken, thanks for the bit of Roman wisdom. I would counter that with some modern pop culture wisdom by way of Cheryl Crow: It's not knowing what you want, it's wanting what you got. I wholeheartedly agree with you that the basis of our economy, and what has gotten us in trouble, is reckless spending and debt. However, people should decide for themselves why they work and what they should do with their money. I can only offer suggestions and point out what seems to be going on. Furthermore, not everyone is married to their jobs soley for money, though that is often a large part of it. Some people just love their work, and if they could, would probably work every waking minute. Maybe we should be envious.

Guest's picture
Lissa

"do I really want to dedicate my life to a company that only values me for what I have to offer (as opposed to my family, who will love me no matter how well I perform)"

I've never understood how anyone views this situation -- value at work for what one contributes, value at home merely for existing -- as legitimate. Then again, I've always worked for government/nonprofit entities were the value I provide has a direct impact on quality of life for a great many people, and I consider love to be valueless if it doesn't exist hand in hand with respect. Maybe I'm the weird one.

Guest's picture

My boss is constantly on his Blackberry. I've received messages from him that he sent at 3 in the morning. I find this excessive. On the other hand, I enjoy working, though not as much as my boss. Right now, I can't see myself ever retiring. I'd be bored to death without "something for my hands to do." Though my attitude towards retirement may change, I don't think endless leisure is the answer, either.

Guest's picture
Deborah

I think you have some good point but I must agreewith Brian that ist does not state a "how".

I'm self-employed as a web designer. I just started my business last year sometimes, I go weeks without a single project. But what must I do in the meantime? I must diligently seek out projects of course! And sometimes I'm at my home office on my computer 12 hours at a time just trying to get work.

Once someone becomes more established, I believe that work/life balance is possible but when you are just starting out, you have to build yourself up to a point where you have 30+ regular clients and then you can relax and say "Okay, this time is for this. And this time is for that."

I'm excellent with finances but when it comes to time-management I could improve. I'm very interested in seeing anything you may have in the future about managing your time wisely, as it seems a lot of us have a hard time with this

Guest's picture
hustler

I work for a so called family oriented company, whatever that means. We've decided it means that if your whole family works there then you'd see them. I work mandatory overtime every week and really have no choice about it. I understand your point though. The crew I work with is great. We are all friends and when the bigwigs aren't walking through we really joke around a lot and have fun. If it weren't for my "other family" at work, I don't think I would still be working there. Even work time can be fun time.

Fred Lee's picture
Fred Lee

Hey Everyone, Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and suggestions. And I agree with Brian and Deborah, some helpful suggestions on time management are in order, so please stay tuned. And have a nice day.

Guest's picture
Kin

We also need to point out that, not only we work in order to (have the free time) to play. But now the mentality is that we play (rest on Sunday, or take a vacation) just so we can work longer and harder.

The thing is, once we start playing for the sake of work... or that it's good for us. We are no longer playing.

Then there is no question why people wonder where their life had gone.

Maggie Wells's picture

This week I had a couple of contract jobs finally end! Who-hoo freedom! And then I realized I'd been working so much from home that I didn't even know what to do with the free time !

OMG Too much working.

 

Margaret Garcia-Couoh

Guest's picture
ender

There's a real easy way to stop working during your off hours.
Disconnect yourself.

turn off your blackberry.
don't acknowledge emails you probably read right away, cuz odds are you're on your pc 'winding down' anyways.

I went from a job in which I was on-call all the time, and HAD to answer my phone, to a job now in which once my shift is over, even if I get a call, there's nooooooooo need to answer it.
My entire life outside of work is my own.

sometimes, I do nothing at all.
but sit there.
and stare at a tv.
or a book.
or a video game.
or my eye lids.

it's magical. Magical.
Nobody on their deathbed ever once said, 'I should've worked more..' Yes, we all need jobs.

Work to live. don't live to work.