It’s Off to Work We Go

Americans work harder and vacation less than almost anybody else in the world.

Sure, we have a nice GDP.  But we’re not the happiest country.  That would be Finland, for the 4th year in a row, according to the World Happiness Report based on Gallup polling.

With terrible weather (even Finns admit this) and a kind of reserved attitude toward other people, including fellow Finns, they still manage to skip through their days with smiles on their faces.  Why are Finns so happy?  A comprehensive social safety net and an excellent educational system help.  But Finland also encourages everyone to have a healthy life/work balance.

In our country, it seems only older people are comfortable with this concept.  We’re the ones who can work during the day, if we choose, without carrying the burden of intense competition and success- at-all-costs home with us.  I know a number of older people who like to work and continue to do so, but at jobs that are not all-consuming.  Jobs that may be part-time or end at five on the dot with plenty of time in the evening to relax and play with grandchildren. The desire to be a slave to your image as a workaholic wanes as you age.  Leave the work phone calls late in the evening to younger people who are still up.     

A recent NY Times article featured a middle-aged man in his fifties who had a heart attack. Then an epiphany. He realized his 12-hour workdays as an investment banker were killing him. So he stepped away from his job for a while to figure out what he really wanted.  He adopted a reflective elder attitude well before he became an elder.

Maybe more of us, especially those in middle age, need to reevaluate what we want out of life.  The money may be good, but you don’t have time to spend it. And a humane work/life balance goes a long way toward keeping you out of the coronary care unit.   

It’s time we all did something nice for our own health and happiness, whether you’re seventy, fifty or thirty-five. Be like the Finns. Put down your phone, close your computer once in a while, and go play in the snow.