William Liao

January 8, 2022

You don't have to be on all the time

In April 2021, author Samuel Pollen posted a humorous tweet about the difference between European and American work culture that went viral: 

Part of why his tweet is so funny and liked is probably because there are some traces of truth to his words that some people can relate to. 

Is anybody actually on-call while in kidney surgery? No. 

But is there a looming pressure felt by some workers to always be available for anything work-related at any time — the kind of pressure that precipitates feelings of sleeplessness, guilt, anxiety, and chronic stress?

According to a survey conducted by OnePoll, 78% of Americans feel obligated to continue working even when they’re sick. 

According to another survey from the Anxiety & Depression Association of America: 72% of Americans reported daily stress and anxiety that interferes with their lives at least moderately, more than three-quarters say stress at work carries over to their personal life, and nearly 28% have reported having an anxiety or panic attack. 

Suffice it to say, all signs point to yes

Because everyone’s circumstances are unique and complex, it’s hard to prescribe any kind of universal or straightforward way to alleviate these pressures and anxieties. 

What I can share, though, are a few perspectives that have helped me: 

  1. You’re human. Going offline and taking breaks are not indicators of weakness or a lack of motivation. In fact, it’s the opposite: by taking care of yourself, you put yourself in a position to thrive in everything you do. And it is often you who is in the best position to take care of yourself. 
  2. Work as play. Work doesn’t have to be serious all the time — in many cases, you see can find a way to see it as play, as something to extra considerable joy from… even find humor in at times. Levity isn’t just fun, but it also invigorates. See: Humor, Seriously.
  3. It’s your life to seize. There’s no guarantee regarding how long you will live. So while there are always going to be responsibilities that you have to manage, equally at the fore should be thoughts about what kind of life and experiences you wish to have. Maybe part of you feels guilty about taking a family vacation, but another part should also be advocating for the fact that the number of opportunities to gather with loved ones is limited. 

To whoever is reading this, may you figure out a way to live your life in a way that works best for you. 

May you be well, and may you be happy.