NST Leader: Be productive

For Malaysians, work has become a catchword, almost a shibboleth — a principle or custom that has shaped our lives. NSTP/MUSTAFFA KAMAL.

WORK, work, work. This appears to be the mantra for many people around the globe. For Malaysians, work has become a catchword, almost a shibboleth — a principle or custom that has shaped our lives.

We have to work to survive; if we don’t, we have no money and we have nothing to eat. At least that’s what work means to most of us.

It is no wonder that fast-paced Kuala Lumpur has been lumped together with Singapore and Tokyo where workers in these three cities spend longer hours in the office and take fewer holidays. A report in This Week In Asia says workers in KL, Singapore and Tokyo “have some of the worst work-life balance in the world”.

It says the “workaholic culture” is in “stark contrast” to cities in northern Europe, where “vacations are long and the average working week is shorter”.

The report quotes a study of 40 cities by an office access control systems provider. Tokyo took top spot, followed by Singapore, United States’ capital Washington, DC and Kuala Lumpur, which, it says, has the longest average working week at 46 hours. Imagine that! Do we ever have some downtime?

This Leader, in April, had called on Malaysians to “set the equation right” — strive to be productive, as well as make living a priority. “A higher output and outcome, but without compromising the ideals. Revisit the work smart concept to achieve a work-life balance.” Has anything changed since?

Sadly, no. If anything, we seem to be working harder. Work-life balance seems an illusion in today’s dog-eat-dog world. We are one day away from the third decade of the 21st century; something must change, something’s got to give. Former US First Lady Michelle Obama says “we need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own ‘to do’ list”. Yes, this we must.

Working long hours puts us at risk of health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. Let’s pause and ponder. We need a balance. Consider the benefits — improved productivity, reduction in employee turnover, lower medical costs and a better reputation for the company.

Companies should consider allowing employees to take short breaks in between. A 2011 study by the University of Illinois highlighted the importance of taking breaks. It said “prolonged attention to a single task actually hinders performance”, and that it was difficult for our brains to focus on one thing for long periods. Once we’ve reached our optimum, a short interruption or “break is what we need to stay on track”.

The idea of work-life balance actually goes back to the 4th century B.C, during the days of Greek philosopher Aristotle, who believed that “maintaining balance and not going into the extreme” was the key to happiness. He also believed that in life, change was “necessary and natural”.

There you have it. Today’s advanced technology has made our tasks easier; we do not need an Einstein to help us formulate a work-life balance. We can do this, let’s make this our resolution for 2020.

Read more @ https://www.nst.com.my/opinion/leaders/2019/12/552086/nst-leader-be-productive

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