Are we overdoing it with the pushing?

As we leave the year behind, take a moment to pause and reflect, advises dentsu's Victoria Livingstone

In the late 80’s when Salt-n-Pepa were telling us to ‘push it real good’, the world of work looked very different than it does today. It was the rise of ‘corporate culture’ and an increased focus on ‘productivity and profitability’ and computers were starting to become the office norm, marking the beginning of a new technology age. If we look at how we work today, 40 years later, that culture has shifted up a gear to an ‘always on’ state; many of us are permanently connected with our work technology, which has in turn become interchangeable with our personal social media networks. With the rise of hybrid working, many of us are working even longer hours – we’ve reduced the commute time that provided disconnection and instead we’re flexibly working into our evenings and weekends. So, how are we measuring our success? Is it the hours we put in, the promotions we gain, the deals or pitches we win? Is success still down to us out-working our colleagues and competition? Being the last one standing?

The latest generation entering the workforce, Gen Z are the least likely to measure success against these factors. They want the best of all worlds and the only thing they’ll be ‘pushing’ for is better work-life balance, work that makes them feel valued and empowered, and having a manager that cares about their personal and professional development. Ironically, this is also the generation who are craving and mimicking the nostalgia of decades like the 80’s and 90’s, which is said to be driven by a desire for simpler times compared to their digitally-native lives.

We see this intensity not only in the world of work but in the world of advertising too

The promotion of health and wellbeing was very much part of the advertising landscape around the time of the 80s – with the advent of products like SlimFast, and the rise of the Jane Fonda fitness boom. But we are now worlds away from quick fix diet solutions, leotards, and lycra. Our fitness, health, and wellbeing are now tracked via apps, interconnected with smart devices telling us to move more, and we sit faced with an unsurmountable volume of information and choice around our wellness. Is it all just too much?

So, as we head into the holiday season and another year closes out, it is time to reflect on how hard you are pushing it to get ahead, to keep up or to prevent yourself sinking! I’m throwing you a conceptual time out life raft, take a load off and pause.

When was the last time you had a work day off? Uninterrupted? When did you last have 8 hours sleep? When did you last feel you were in control of your work (or is it in control of you)? How much time have you invested in your friendships? Your family life? Relationships? Hobbies? Health and fitness? If you cannot answer these questions positively, then you’re in danger of pushing it too much, in the wrong places and with the wrong long-term results. No career, no work outcome is worth such a sacrifice and being honest, the outputs are probably diminishing along the way.

Remember, no one is indispensable at work. Your health is non-negotiable. On your gravestone it won’t say, “I wish I’d spent more time at work.” Money cannot buy you happiness, connectedness, purpose. If your self-esteem is connected heavily with the work and value you have professionally, at some point, that will no longer exist and you will realise that you’ve been pursuing a one way relationship!

If you’re sitting here thinking you’ve been making too many debits against your life and in the wrong places, take the opportunity of this holiday season to reflect and reset. Be honest with yourself about who you are, what you’re trying to be and if this exists or can exist in a more balanced way outside of your work? If work stopped tomorrow, who would you be? What identity and values would you have? What are the most important things you want to preserve and prioritise?

Once you’ve identified your new focus, reflect on what boundaries you need to put in place. What changes do you need to make, to your schedule, expectations of others? Any commitments you want to change, revise and then plan how you communicate these to others. You are so much more likely to fulfil your new approach, if you make it transparently known to others. Schedule a check in with others, a friend, a coach or a therapist to keep you on track and honest about how you’re honouring your new approach. Treat yourself as your biggest investment, you are worth it and if you are going to push it, make sure you’re pushing it for yourself and the life and balance that you want.

May I wish you all a happy, healthy, restful, and reflective end of 2022.

Featured image: Jane Fonda’s Original Workout / YouTube

Victoria Livingstone

Victoria Livingstone is the Chief People Officer of EMEA at dentsu international. Victoria has more than two decades of experience as an HR leader across multiple industry sectors including Ford, Cisco, Vodafone, Liberty Global, HSBC and ASOS. She specialises in partnering with the business on critical change and transformation to support commercial outcomes, bringing expertise in organisation design, effectiveness and development, with a strong focus on culture, inclusion and values. As the Chief People Officer, Victoria is part of the regional Executive Team and accelerate dentsu’ integration and growth through talent, culture and organisation effectiveness.

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