Zombies In Suits: A Case For The Conscious Employee

Published on:

A case for the conscious employee: find out why work-life balance is bullsh*t and how one question changes everything.

Every Monday morning, it pains me to see people commute to work while sharing a look with their fellow commuters as if life is over for the next 5 days. “Work-life balance is bulls*it”, Jerry Colonna wrote in an eye-opening piece and he has a point:

“The concept of work-life balance is bullshit. First, it presumes that work is in opposition to life. And the fact is that work is a fundamental part of life.” — @jerrycolonna

While I believe that most people realise that their professional life directly and strongly impacts their overall level of happiness, it strikes me that only few people actively act on this insight. Too often I hear a reasoning similar to “the job’s terrible, but I’m gonna stick with it for another year or two so it looks good on my resume and then I move on to something better”. I know this sounds reasonable, because I’ve been there. Once you look at the whole picture though, you wonder whether you really want to waste months or even years in an unfulfilling job.

“When you’re born, you’re born with 30,000 days. That’s it. The best strategic planning I can give to you is to think about that.” — Sir Ray Avery

If you spend your first 20 years on education, are in a job from your mid 20s to your 60s and retire afterwards — which is a rather naive thing to believe for our generation — you spend approximately 50% of those 30 000 days in one or several different jobs. Take out weekends and holidays and, depending on which country you work in, you end up with approximately 10 000 work days.

That’s 1/3 Of Your Life…

… so you better make sure you spend it in a job you love.
Ideally, you don’t have to do the math above at all, because you are not making a tradeoff between your work and your life. Your life is your work and your work is life. This does not mean that you can’t have a private or family life and work 100h a week. It only means, that both parts of your life — work and play — are somewhat equally fulfilling and enriching, hence make you happy!

From an employer’s perspective, happiness of staff is not a fraction less important. A happy team leads to a rise in efficiency, increased output, maximum creativity and innovation, greater commitment, extra tolerance throughout tough times, fewer sick days and less employee turnover.

The positive impact of a happy workforce is at no point limited to the bottom line though: a more sustainable corporate culture, better collaborations across teams and an increased sense of self-authority and accountability are all benefits of cultivating an environment on the job which encourages people in pursuit of their personal and professional goals. Zappos’ Tony Hsieh has written a great book about happiness in the workplace and I highly recommend you reading it.

How To Make A Change

Steve Jobs once said, that he frequently asked himself if today were the last day of his life, would he want to do what he was about to do today? And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, he knew he needed to change something.

Similarly, Airbnb’s Brian Chesky used to ask potential job candidates in their interviews “if they would take the job if they got a medical diagnosis that they have one year left to live.”

Both concepts don’t seem very practical to me. Jobs’ version of making a change required an unmatched self discipline paired with an almost discomforting holistic view of one’s own life. I doubt that many people could implement, honestly respond and subsequently react to this question as part of their daily routine.

Chesky’s proof of blood seems illusionary and somewhat morbid in its very own way. Obviously, his goal is to hire extremely focused and committed people, but does this highly hypothetical question really prove their qualities? Are you a bad hire, if you don’t want to spend the last 12 months of your life at company X? Maybe, maybe not.

At the end of the day, I don’t want myself and anyone else to constantly wonder about life’s end in order to pursue happiness! I believe there’s a better self-check:

If You Could Choose Any Job, What Would It Be?

Is it the job you’re currently in? If not, is your current job your best chance of getting this one job? Is the university degree you currently pursue your best chance of getting there? If not, what are you really pursuing? Knowledge? Safety? Status? What’s the alternative?

Obviously, this question comes with it’s very own limitations. If we’re realistic for a second, not everyone can choose any job: If you have bad vision, you’re unlikely to become an air force pilot and without the proper physical condition that NBA career moves into significantly further distance. Then again, never say never.

What I like best about this question is that it also stimulates you to think about why this is the job you would choose. Who are you? What’s important to you? What makes you happy? Independence, money, prestige, contributing to society or getting on the cover of Time?

What drives you?



Sharing is caring so please share this post. Thank you!