24-7 work – Why do we do it?

7:10pm on a Tuesday evening. My brain says it’s time to stop for the day. You know the feeling – it’s harder to express yourself, maybe not so easy to hold three or four balls in the air at once. Studies have shown that after about 9 hours of work, software developers may be introducing more bugs into the code than they are adding value. All of us know what the equivalent feels like in our world.

And yet, we still succumb to the prevailing norm. Work more hours, take on more tasks, multitask more.

Why do we do it? Here are a few possible answers. Post your own thoughts here and let’s talk about it.

  1. Because everyone else does.
    The culture in “corporate America” can be pretty brutal. We feel pressure to answer our email at midnight because we’re still getting email from our colleagues and clients at midnight.
  2. Because we work in a global economy.
    Since our colleagues and clients are often many time zones away, our ability to connect may depend on our willingness to take calls at all hours.
  3. Because we don’t really look at the cost.
    We hear the old saying that nobody ever sat on his deathbed and said, “I wish I’d spent more time at the office.” But we aren’t on our deathbeds and we’d rather not consider what it’s costing us to be so focused on work.

I don’t have the answers to this puzzle. If I did, most likely I wouldn’t be blogging right now; I’d be enjoying a glass of wine with my honey. But I do believe this is a puzzle worth looking at. For each of us individually, for your organization, for society.

Why do you think we do it?

And, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for that glass of wine.