Could ‘Workism’ Be Killing Your Culture?

It’s no question that for most of us, what we do and where we do it are key elements of our identity. After all, if we’re working 40 hours per week, that means about half of our waking lives is spent working, and for many professionals, it’s much more—not to mention the amount of time spent in postsecondary education learning necessary trades or skills.workism

‘Workism’ an Emerging Trend

The Atlantic’s Derek Thompson argues that because people’s faith in America has declined, they’ve begun to look elsewhere to fulfill the need for identity, which this means a commitment to workism for many. But what exactly is ‘workism’?

“It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work,” says Thompson. He adds that it’s actually rich men who are driving the culture of workism:

“In 1980, the highest-earning men actually worked fewer hours per week than middle-class and low-income men, according to a survey by the Minneapolis Fed. But that’s changed. By 2005, the richest 10 percent of married men had the longest average workweek. In that same time, college-educated men reduced their leisure time more than any other group. Today, it is fair to say that elite American men have transformed themselves into the world’s premier workaholics, toiling longer hours than both poorer men in the U.S. and rich men in similarly rich countries.”

The Impact of Workism on Company Culture

So, what does this mean for our company cultures? One of the key points Thompson makes is that America bucks the trend of much of the developed world—and, indeed, much of history.

Rather than working less, the rich and successful are working more and more. Consequently, the path to success seems to wind through years of long nights, working weekends, and taking minimal vacation time. Although it’s great to get that kind of commitment, it can come at the cost of burnout.

So, managers should be careful to ensure they aren’t unintentionally enabling these behaviors by allowing an overworked employee to stay late or come in on the weekend because productivity may suffer in the long run.

Not surprisingly, workism can lead to increased stress among workers. To learn innovative ways to reduce stress among employees, join us on November 14th in Nashville Tennesee for the session Work Stress: The Latest Science and Solutions for Minimizing the Costly and Corrosive Effects on Employees at HR Comply 2019.