Being Busy is Nothing to Brag About: COVID-19 Workaholism is Real

I am concerned that we are slipping into an unsustainable and unhealthy new work normal.

Wpadington / Shutterstock
Wpadington / Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a work-at-home scenario for me that has potential for backsliding into my dangerous workaholic tendencies. The back-to-back Zoom meetings with no transition time and lack of a lunch break are needed when urgency is real, but I am concerned that we are slipping into an unsustainable and unhealthy new work normal.

I went back to my blog archive and pulled out a piece I wrote a few years ago to remind myself and others that being busy is not something we should celebrate. I have rallied my accountability partners and friends to help me maintain my high-achieving work ethic and not slip into the addictive workaholic zone.

Busy-ness is a dangerous trap that relinquishes our control to find meaning and fulfillment in life and career when we are stuck in the quicksand of being busy. I am on a mission to disrupt the busy culture and focus on a life that is measured by meaning, value, fulfillment, and other factors we can customize to celebrate our unique happiness and satisfaction.

Busy doesn’t mean important.

As a recovering workaholic, I am constantly revisiting the lesson that being busy doesn’t equate with significant or value-adding activities. Filling time with tasks that don’t have worth or meaning is something you can reverse with planning and self-reflection.

Track the moments in your workday and non-work days to see how you are truly spending your time. Consider how you can be more selective with your time to focus on what really matters in your life and career.

Stop the busy brag.

Being busy is not a badge of honor and we must reverse this dangerous cultural phenomenon by resisting the urge to brag about how busy we are.

The busy brag is pervasive, and you can be a role model for others and share what gives you meaning and fulfillment instead of defaulting to telling others how busy you are. Start by actively listening, since when you hear a busy bragger, it will help you avoid the urge to chime in.

Workplace revolution.

Some workplaces perpetuate the workaholic culture and praise the busy brag. This is not healthy or sustainable and often leads to a revolving door of talent that is neither cost-effective, nor morale-boosting. To disrupt an antiquated workplace model, leaders must set an example and be willing to break or reinvent the mold.

Leaders must have candid conversations with employees to encourage them to take time off to rest, rejuvenate, and experience the health benefits that come with time away from work. Setting an example by not e-mailing, texting, or calling after regular business hours will help create and maintain a healthy work environment with lasting results for productivity and retention.

Busy isn’t always productive.

Being busy just for the sake of face time (Zoom time) or visibility in your workplace does not promote a healthy or wise culture for advancement and productivity in an organization. The concept of working smarter, not harder, is not new and if organizations adopt these principles, they will focus productivity, efficiency, and overall satisfaction on the part of the worker.

Sprints, for example – focused and intense work sessions to accomplish a task or goal – are becoming mainstream beyond the high tech organizations where this work style was born. Consider how you can hunker down and get work done during your unique sweet spot time of day. Then use the other time to recharge, tackle less intense tasks, and give your brain a chance to reboot. Your creativity, attention span, and productivity will soar.

Don’t forget to play.

Adults have lost the ability to play with reckless abandon like children. This is one of the best ways to boost creativity, engage your brain, and release stress.

Consider how you can re-introduce play into your life daily. I’m not talking about working out in a way that comes with a goal or is part of an existing regimen. How can you play with no agenda or goal and revel in what might be silly, effortless, and fun?

Savvy professionals will also incorporate playtime at work to encourage brain breaks, stimulate in-person communication amongst colleagues, and add a bit of levity to a stressful workday.

Being still, not idle.

As a high-energy personI used to find it difficult navigating down time. I would fill the time with things to keep myself busy, and this exacerbated my stress, because I was not comfortable being inactive.

While I am still working on being mindful and adding moments to my admittedly short meditations, I am becoming more comfortable being still. I am resisting the urge to find something to busy myself and I am relishing the moments of calm, quiet, and stillness to reflect.

Being still does not mean I’m lazy, but it has opened up an opportunity to choose how I spend the unscheduled moments and give myself permission not to fill it with busy bunk.

Work martyrs and workaholics are obsolete.

As a Gen X professional, my career role models are driven and ambitious Baby Boomers, many of whom worked themselves into debilitated health. My new normal is focusing on being a high achiever who can be results-driven and, without guilt, enjoy the benefits of down time.

Suffering is optional and modern careerists have a choice. Busy-ness is not a badge of honor. A significant life is not one to fritter away on meaningless tasks that bring stress and drudgery.

Join me in the quest to abolish the busy brag and focus on a life and career with meaning, value, and joy. Don’t forget to add playtime to your day and reach out to your accountability partners for support and encouragement.

Originally published on Ellevate.

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