I met a German fellow at a dinner last weekend. We discussed what kind of work he was doing. He worked at a construction site in Norway as a crane assembler. He said that he was told to slow down as he worked too much and too fast resulting in him making the others look bad! This comment intrigued me; I know that a lot of other countries work longer hours, so I entered Wikipedia to find this article. A typical workweek in Korea is 44 hours a week or more. According to the article and the OECD numbers, only Swedes and Dutch people work fewer hours than a Norwegian. An average American works 449 hours more a year then my fellow countrymen.
Slow down cowboy!
I have been reflecting for a couple of days now, thinking about this German that said he had to slow down. He also knew other Germans that have gotten the same message. Well I can tell that we work fewer hours, as this is a documented fact. But what I did not manage to find out is do we work slower as well? I think so. I have had the honor to work with foreign people before. I have worked alongside Americans, Somalis, Swedes, English, Danes and more, with the most usual impression that these people do work fast. I worked alongside some Danes when opening a new store, they worked for hours with no breaks and when the day was over we drank beer and ate. Are Norwegians also at the wrong end of work speed?
I do experience that a lot of these Norwegians tend to be very tired and complain a lot if they have to work extra hours. The salary is not high enough, the work hours are bad and we are burned out easily. According to this PDF it seems that Norwegians also have the best salaries, ending on third place in these figures. So we work less than most, and we get the best pay for it. Still it is not good enough? Why is it like this? I am thinking a lot about this. It is like you are the one at your job that gets the best pay, do the least amount of work, and complain the most; Oh Sorry, this is called management, lousy example. But seriously it makes me wonder what is going on with us.
Social pressure = burnouts
I believe that it is not work pressure that cause burnouts, but rather the social pressure. I see young people today that move out of the nest for the first time, expecting to have the same standard that their parents have build during maybe 30 years. My first apartment was small, and everything almost including me was second hand stuff. Today people have the newest of everything, and they also expect to travel, party, get kids, dog, car, career, education, savings, personal growth, lots of friends, time to spare and at the same time attending, soccer, wrestling, chess clubs, political meetings, parents meetings, knitting clubs and night clubs, all of this at the same time. Wake up kids it is time to prioritize. Nobody expect that you do it all. You need to find out and think about what you want in life. Yes you can have both kids and a career, but it will be harder, it is nice to have a political interest and it is nice to do sports. If you choose to travel a lot, you might not afford the house you dream of, but is that important, since you won’t be there all the time as you are busy travelling and working. And when you are home you’ll need to attend a PTA meeting anyway.
The long journey.
Life is a journey that takes about 80 years or more. You do not need to stop and look at all the sights along the way. What you should do is to travel away alone for a week, just you. And start thinking about what you want to do with your life. If you know what is important for you and follow that path, you might end up happy and with positive energy. Find good answers to the big questions, do you want to have kids, get married, what job would you love to be doing over the next 45 years? What will it take to achieve these goals? What are your values? If you identify those you’ll have a “cheat sheet” when you get into situations that could be hard to handle.
I don’t know what to do…
A lot of people do not know about their own values or what they want to get out of their life this cause stress, and if you work as little as us Norwegians you’ll also end up with a lot of time to think about it. There is a reason why great thinkers often ended up crazy.
Change in human needs?
Humans need food; humans need air, safety and shelter. For a lot of people they now have the most basic needs covered. They do not need to hunt, they do not need to farm, and they almost do not need work to feed. Work might end up being meaningless and not rewarding. The reward today might not be a pay but self realization and the ego development are now what tick you off. Education is important, learning is important that’s why it brings me to the…
I do strongly believe that all humans need to learn. What you learn is not important as long as you learn something. All workplaces should have a mini library with a lot of “how to”, and “for dummies” books that could teach you something. There should be one shelf with books about your field of expertise and the rest of the shelfs should be about anything but job related stuff. To attract quality employees and to keep your employees happy a good solid bookshelf could be it. Team buildings should be educational and fun. I once went to an event where a professional chef teaching us to cook a fantastic meal, and we all made it ourselves, it was a great experience. If managers recognize this need to learn and enable a learning environment people will grow and thrive at work preventing burnouts. People should also consider the tough choices in life and as mentioned earlier people themselves have the responsibility to make the tough priorities necessary to manage both life and work in a great balance.