Even before the “always on” office culture of email, text, WhatsApp, Zoom and Teams, I believed that putting in the hours and doing whatever it takes to get the job done was the key to success. This was instilled in me working in London in the 1990s where nobody batted an eyelid if you were still in the office at 3am or if you pulled an all-nighter. It wasn’t just expected, it was a badge of honour. How foolish that all seems now.
I remember the managing director of my firm recording a video from her hospital bed days after giving birth (this was before phones had cameras). This video was proudly presented to a potential client as evidence that we were unstoppable as a business partner. Looking back, that was so inappropriate – sending a clear signal to the women in the firm that you had to be constantly “at work”.
Back here in Australia, this belief was only reinforced by working for 10 years in retail. If you’ve never worked in the industry you might be surprised to know that retail starts early: 7.30am starts are the norm and on a Monday everyone is on their toes to go over last week’s results – so needed to be up even earlier. And as the pressure grew in retail the hours extended later and later.
When I became a mother I moved to a four-day working week and was fully supported. But being “on” is in your DNA so I could never be away from the phone or email for more than 30 minutes – I could have missed something! Once again, not saving lives, just selling bananas.