Living a Life of Weisure?
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.