SINGAPORE: One famous anecdote in my years in the media and communications industry goes like this: An agency head walked into the office at 10pm and, upon seeing only half the staff were still working, shouted, “We must not be having enough business. We need more clients.”
It’s no secret some industries want workers who are ready to put in long hours. Indeed, the first advertising agency I had applied to, a fairly well-known one at that point in time, had put out a job ad essentially stating that if you’re a clock-watcher, you need not apply.
In a meeting discussing work culture almost 10 years ago, an agency head stood up and declared the millennial generation had different values – more concerned with work-life balance than with career progression.
Just a few years ago, mindful that my staff were keeping long hours, I advocated better resource management and wanted not to encourage the culture of working long hours being seen as a “badge of honour” or a must-have for a good appraisal.
The pushback I received surprised me. The common retort? Those are the dues we paid to get where we are today. If they cannot take it, this industry is not for them.
WORK HARD NOW, ENJOY LATER?
There is some truth in this. We, boomers or Gen X, did indeed equate long hours to corporate success. And yes, many of us have climbed the corporate ladder because such “good work ethic” was rewarded.
Work hard now, we were told, to reach a level of seniority where we were paid for our experience, knowledge and expertise – not our hours. Then, and only then, we would have the time to pursue and enjoy the things we neglected in our earlier years.