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What does busyness mean for businesses?

From busy fools to humblebrags, PR and marketing manager Amy Macdonald discusses the culture of busyness and what it means for the workplace.

In the UK we have a fair few cultural quirks that are considered to be a given. From our obsession with queuing, our overuse of the word “sorry” and the perception that busyness is a good thing, especially in the workplace.

Considering the rising demand for flexible working, remote working and everything in between, the Western world’s obsession with busyness clashes with new ways of working and also our wellbeing.

Busyness as a status symbol

study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that busyness—specifically, presentism and spending less time doing the things we love—has replaced perceivable consumption as the primary sign of status in our culture.

Similarly an article by Robert Levine titled ‘A geography of busyness’ observed that in the US the question “how are you” is almost always answered by a barometer of busyness, commenting: “The odd thing about this is that both parties understand the response may be a type of bragging, as in “look how important I am”. This would seem exceedingly curious to visitors from many other cultures – like bragging you are having a nervous breakdown. It is readily accepted.”

Considering the toxicity surrounding the cult of busyness, we have considered three issues it can create and how workplaces, individuals and managers can combat these.

The destruction of work-life balance through working in the evening and on weekends

There are many ways to combat this kind of imbalance, and flexibility in the workspace is one. Over the years, many large businesses have banned emails out of hours and encouraged their employees to reclaim their leisure time.  To highlight the problem in 2016  French MP Benoît Hamon told the BBC: “Employees physically leave the office, but they do not leave their work. They remain attached by a kind of electronic leash – like a dog…” Shortly after this, France introduced a law banning work emails after hours.

People not taking their entitled leave

According to ACAS, only half of UK employees take their full holiday entitlement and 44% work while they are on leave. It is important for businesses to be clear that taking time off work is an entitlement and isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ treat. Taking time away from work can increase productivity levels and staff morale too, lead by example and always make time for your personal life outside of work.

Stressful environments leading to poor mental health

Research from Mind shows that more than one in five people surveyed (21 per cent) agreed that they had called in sick to avoid work when asked how workplace stress had affected them. Promoting open conversations around mental health and stress in the workplace is integral to staff wellbeing and also the success of a business. During Stress Awareness Month spoke to our team and clients to understand how stress can be better managed in the workplace.

By Amy Macdonald

Amy has worked across both consumer and B2B accounts, helping to raise awareness through traditional and digital campaigns. Amy has delivered a range of campaigns across a number of sectors including: property, construction, leisure, retail, charity and the arts.

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