It's a very busy week, you can feel that burnt-out creeping in, you are exhausted and it's just 3 minutes pass 2 p.m. While stretching to release the tension in the neck, you noticed your team mates are still very engaged with their work, discussions & fast-paced cubicle sprinting.
You can't even set your mind straight to focus, let alone analyzing that humongous .xlsx spreadsheet. You're stuck. The next wise thing to do: walk to the water cooler, get yourself a drink, taking in some deep breaths and wander around a little bit, as advised by many gurus of productivity. After 10 minutes, you sit back down, Nope... Not working.
The company's policy gave you the freedom to plan your own day, you just need to stick to your deliverable and deadlines. It's 3 p.m. and you still have not been able to progress, it's frustrating, it's torturous, what will you do?
Call it a day, do something that is FUN and start again the next day. (Fun activities could be watching a movie in the cinema, drive to the beach, join an evening painting workshop, shoot some darts, completing the Gundam model, etc.)
Continue to sit at your cubicle while surfing social media or shopping sites, pretend that you are working till you "feel" like its a good time to leave.
Continue working in a different venue (e.g. an empty meeting room, colleague's cubicle, co working space, cafe, bar, etc.).
Call it a day, go home, replenish nutrition, rest well and start again the next day.
Culture: Ideas That MOST Embraced
No matter what you chose to do, it is always closely related to the culture of your workplace, community, friends and family, people around you will most probably make those same decisions too. And it is quite certain that you won't feel comfortable doing something FUN during "working hours" (unless you are at your dream job, everything you do is already fun, but majority do not have that privilege)
Culture is a huge word with very broad definitions. By removing all the intellectual mambo jumbo, cultures are the ideas that most people embrace. Lets look at some examples:
There are 3 important meals in a day
Celebrate birthday with a decorated cake.
A valued gift is wrapped in beautiful wrappers (a wasteful culture)
Get yourself something nice during a festive season.
Wedding rings, commute, regular meetings, sports day, there are trillions of examples, but we are going to stop here, you get the idea...
Human beings are basically living based on ideas that are being embraced by the MANY, and most don't question them at all, as they are C-U-L-T-U-R-E, it's taboo, only a weirdo or an outcast will question culture, duh! Most importantly, most of us don't even know the origins or purpose of such practices. We do it because everyone else is doing it.
The origins of working hours, as the speculation goes
During the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th century, laborers (including child workers) are working 10 to 16 hours a day. The idea of the 8 hour work week was first introduced by Robert Owens in 1817, he proposed that a balanced life is "eight hours labor, eight hours leisure, eight hours rest."
The idea didn’t take hold until the 1920s when the big factory owners started to introduce the 8 hours workday without wage reduction. As typically, smaller players followed the footsteps by embracing the idea, then abracadabra! It was integrated into laws around the globe in the following decades.
There are a few different versions being speculated about why the big factories made this huge leap, from exploiting workers to taking care of their well-being (or for selfish reason?):
Achieving human well-being with a balanced life of work, leisure and rest.
The life-span of an overworked human is very short, to deal with a sick worker and retraining a skilled worker will be taking up too much resources.
Factories needed consumers to make a profit. In order to get into a shopping mood, consumers needed time to relax and enjoy themselves. And obviously, they needed more time off work.
For religious reasons, its not appropriate to work from sunrise to sun set.
In short, no one know for sure why we are working 8 hours week, it was started a century ago where automation, electronics and global networks are still not a "thing".
Why are we still embracing it? Of course, by now, you know the answer - because everyone is doing it, and majority still don't have the guts to question it.
Humans: Highly attuned Social beings
As a Homo Sapiens, it is very important that we feel a sense of belonging within a tribe (now even with strangers at the other side of the globe). The trust & bond keeps us alive in a harsh and dangerous world, we know we can count on:
The hunters and gatherers to do their job, so we don't starve.
The night-watchers to guard us safe at when we are sleeping.
Tribe members to take care of a wounded family.
The tribe's navigator to recommend sites with abundant food and water.
If we are selfish and not playing our part within the tribe, we will be abandoned in the wild, which usually means death. This may be one of the the many reason why Homo Sapiens have a strong urge of getting recognition, because our survival depends on how the tribe members perceive our contributions.
Fast-forward 50 thousands years into the high-tech urban jungle, the living environment had changed drastically, but the Homo Sapiens biology remains the same. We are still seeking the sense of belonging and our bodies still think if others don't like us, we might die...
Embrace LIFE, Much More Than Culture & Take Ownership to Build a Culture for the People Around You
The winds of change had been blowing for a very long time. Artificial intelligence, bio-technologies, computers and automation, world-wide connectivity, abundant food, global warming, overflowed plastics and wastes, overcrowded cities, etc. The pace of change is so fast that it is impossible for the Homo Sapiens' evolution to keep up.
But we are still embracing very old cultures that do not even make sense anymore. Life is very different from 100 years ago, but do we have the strength to deny the cultures of our beloved tribes?
Most of us still lack the strength, because we are Homo Sapiens (the Homo Millennial might be a braver breed, we will leave this topic for future blogs). In fact that is OK, because of our enhanced cerebral capacity and pre-frontal cortex, we are able to take a step back, cool down and take a look at the bigger picture, then take small steps to achieve a self-defined greatness in our own little universe (that exists in our mind) again!
Remember, NOBODY knows anything for sure in the 21st Century
When you noticed cultures around you that don't make sense, here are a few questions that you can ask yourself before you make that culture-shocking move:
Did I do it because I liked being labeled as a rebel? Red Alert, think again!
Is this for the collective good for mother earth and all living things on it? Or just some dumb old rules that don't make any sense? (e.g. wasteful wrappers for gifts)
If I deny the culture, am I still a nice human being? (e.g. stop providing sweetened desert or greasy snacks in the office)
Will they judge me? (the answer to this will always be: I don't give a shit?)
Embrace life as a nice human being, don't hurt others, always be curious!