Chances are that throughout your day someone has asked you, “hey, are you busy?“ And whether you were or not, your answer was probably yes. But why?
The amount of time we have to complete our daily tasks hasn’t changed over the years; however, with the help of technology, we’re now able to accomplish more tasks. In fact, in a global study from Havas Worldwide surveying 10,000 adults, they found that 42% admitted to overstating their obligations. And a further 60% believe that people they interact with are pretending to be busier than they really are. The study also showed that those most likely to exaggerate their workload were Millennials, at 51%. While another 65% accused their peers of doing the exact same thing. On the other hand, only 26% of Baby Boomers said they pretend to be busier than they are.
Why are we pretending to be busy when that’s not always the case?
“Our issue with time seems to be not that we have too little of it, but that we now equate being busy with leading a life of significance,” the report notes.
In an essay in The New York Times, writer Tim Kreider observed that busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness.
“Obviously your life cannot possibly be silly, trivial, or meaningless if you are in demand every hour of the day.”
Basically, it’s all about perception; people don’t want to appear as if they don’t have a life.
And with a tight job market, the study shows people believe a worker’s value is determined by how busy they appear. Therefore, if you’re not busy, you’re not an essential employee and not needed. This has made pretending to be busy a vital workplace survival skill; all thanks to society’s unspoken celebration of being overworked and overloaded.
Some countries are more prone to pretending to be busy
Workers in newer economic powerhouses such as Brazil, China and India are pretending to be busy, even when they’d rather relax. According to the study, this is possibly because they haven’t come to grips with the demands of an ever-connected work and home life.
“It’s a reflection. There’s been a lot of talk of the hyper-connected world, and that’s only going to get more connected as our cars get smarter, as we enter the world of flying cars and talking toasters, and I think that as that emerges, it’s going to be harder to disconnect.”
Other places like the US, Canada, and some European countries choose to view this new pace of life as the way the world works.
What are your thoughts on this study—do you pretend to be busy at work? Click here to learn how cultural and tech trends have changed over the years.