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T his is not an article about those who are slacking off at work. On the contrary, let’s talk about those who work a lot and work hard. I observe the phenomenon of workism affecting some people, where work becomes the center of their identity. I think it also applies to me.

Traditionally, hard work has been and still is valued. I would even venture to say that it is value in itself, especially in Protestant countries, but also in Poland. On top of that are values characteristic to a given generation (this is a complex topic that I hope to address soon). However, if we assign value to action alone, and not to efficiency and quality, we fall into a trap. Instead of focusing on results, we focus on how busy someone is.

According to the Wikipedia, workism “is the belief that employment is not only necessary for economic production but is also the centrepiece of one’s identity and life purpose”. The concept is attributed to American journalist Derek Thompson. Is workism bad? I think not necessarily, although if we become aware of the weight of work in our lives, it is worth taking a closer look. (Workism is not the same as workaholism.)

In my opinion, a lot of effort is not always a value worth to follow. Sometimes, all of someone’s effort (often unconsciously) goes into building an image that is intended to convince others that they are a titan of work. What’s worse, tasks are efficiently executed that are completely pointless (we’re pushing wheelbarrows, but we don’t have time to load them).

It is worth mentioning other facts as well. Studies suggest that excessive engagement in work can lead to burnout and health problems. Furthermore, the pandemic and inflation have caused our value grids to be redefined. According to a 2022 Gartner report, 65% of workers are reconsidering the role of work in their lives.

Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.
~Henry Ford

What do I propose? Instead of just measuring work hours, let’s measure its value. If we start producing something meaningful, we will create a world around us full of meaning. And what can be more valuable (indeed, more moral) than that? (I owe this perspective to Azim Shariff.)

I believe that we should expect this viewpoint from each other, although we must also remember the formal/legal requirements within which our work need to fit. We have to work in accordance with labour laws and other regulations.

Every completed task releases neurotransmitters associated with reward. Therefore, in addition to checking off completed tasks, it’s worth taking a moment to summarize the real effects of work. This will create in us a habit of pride in achievements and encourage us to think about work in terms of true productivity.
Other tips to consider:

  • Relationships: Nurture relationships where value and mutual care are reciprocated.
  • Prioritization: Focus on the most important tasks that will bring the most value.
  • Pomodoro and other techniques: Use time management techniques to increase focus.

Work is not just effort, but primarily the value that stands behind it. I wish you pride in your achievements! Sweat on the forehead as a result of effort is also good from time to time, but let it be for a reason!

If you want to learn more about how to be not just busy, but also effective and valuable in your work, subscribe to my newsletter.