Work and the Myth of Sisyphus
The ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus serves as quite a good allegory for the syndrome where people work so hard that it’s to life’s detriment. Essentially, the myth tells of a man whose destiny is to push a massive boulder up a hill, only for it to roll back down again. Then he repeats the process, perpetually.
It serves as a good analogy because, if we’re working so hard that there’s no living left at the end of the day or week for simple enjoyment, then there’s an element of futility to existence.
Thankfully, in this psychologically savvy age, all but the most extreme workaholics in the world of business now realise that a little R&R (rest and recreation) is essential. In fact, things like getting an 8 hour sleep every night, and a decent snack at lunch, are part of what makes us the well-balanced, creative, productive individuals we are.
Burning the candle too far at each end, and being ‘too busy’ to eat lunch? Probably something we all do occasionally – but if we were to take it on as a lifestyle it’s likely that there would be demonstrable detrimental effects on out health, as well as focus and productivity.
Building wellbeing into the working day
If you’re an entrepreneur, or running your own business, you’ll know just how precious time can be. Work can be extremely draining on your resources of energy, and it seems like the normal 9 to 5 of ordinary folks is just a distant memory.
But no matter how busy things get, there’s never really an excuse not to eat or to take some moments out to gather your thoughts. Well, I say ‘no excuse’ but of course there are likely to be 1,001 reasons to hold off and keep grafting. In the end, it’s often a question of priorities and prioritisation. And it can be amazing how doing a little diary-tinkering can magically free up the odd 15 minutes here and there.
Part of the challenge here is of course that being an entrepreneur isn’t always like when you were an employee. When you work for yourself you’re apt to love your job. And with a reported 70% of SME folks outing in more hours than the 9 to 5ers, there’s also the danger of loving one’s job too much – as this entertaining selection of clips for business owners illustrates.
Entrepreneurship and the so-called ‘Third Metric’
If there’s a theme that seems to emerge when you look at the startup scene it’s that people these days have really good taste as well as high intelligence and business acumen. Well-dressed people with cool websites and fascinating new products and services on offer. This assuredly isn’t a scenario peopled with unimaginative types hidebound by convention.
And hand in hand with this seems to come a wellbeing focus. Stories of offices where people are encouraged to bring their pet dogs to work. Staff cooking classes, even! All a far cry from the almost regimented working life of previous decades.
The Third Metric I mention above is the idea that our life equation has changed from Money + Power = Success to something that incorporates those tangible but largely unquantifiable qualities of well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving.
The business world has changed. And not just in terms of our ways of conducting business or our approach to the working day. The demographics are changing too – in fact there are over 9 million businesses in the United States alone that are owned by women.
The only constant is change – but right now, it seems that we are changing for the better. Incorporating wellbeing and balance into busy lives can only be good for business.
“Almost 70% of small business owners put in more hours than the average nine-to-five job – and a quarter exceed the guidelines set out in the EU working time directive” – AXA Business Insurance survey 350 micro-SME owners, December 2014.
“Well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving” Forbes interview with Arianna Huffington March 2014.
“More than 9.1 million firms are owned by women, employing nearly 7.9 million people, and generating $1.4 trillion in sales as of 2014. National Association of Women Business Owners