It has been reported recently that we – and by we, I mean those of us just dipping our toes into the job market, working ourselves out of junior roles, attempting to make the next step or even attempting to make any money at all – are in fact one of the most hard working generations. “The youth of today” is generally a group spoken about with disdain, perhaps woe, and for our parents it’s no different – except that, their concern doesn’t come from our lack of achievements or effort. In fact, quite the opposite, it comes from the overwhelming amount of both of these things that we, the young, continue to put on ourselves, for often little to no return.
My mother has sat me down more than once to tell me to get a life. Whether it was taking me for a manicure and Pimms after each and every of my GCSE examinations, or taking me out of school for a week to go shopping in Boston, or sending me twenty quid and firmly telling me via text to leave the library and have a large glass of wine after a particularly anxious third year exam, my ability to stretch myself to breaking point with my work has always been one of her biggest worries. It’s a habit that has not left her since I started work.
Those who have tackled academia alongside me would likely be incredulous about this; I have always been considered one of the more laid back of my friends, more likely to make an argument for a trip to the pub than lectures. But that says even more about the problem, that even I live on a knife edge when it comes to setting the bar.
Perhaps it comes from being the children of baby boomers; we have grown up with all the tools that we pressurize ourselves to utilise. This drive only becomes heightened when it comes to the challenge of a salary; we’ll throw ourselves at a role in order to make the best impression. Office hours become unpredictable, emails are checked before bed, the businesses’ social media accounts that our phones are hooked up to awake us with notifications and for those of us who work from our personal laptops, iPlayer sessions are regularly interrupted by messages. Suffice to say, boundaries go out the window.
This isn’t just a generational problem; it’s 2015. The digital era. Work is no longer left at a desk, meetings are held in bars in the evening, breakfasts are even often given way to networking. Holiday no longer means holiday; it’s a week long guilt trip whilst you watch your inbox explode. In which case, just how do we set time for ourselves?
“The first thing to think about if how you conduct yourself at work,” Sophie Wilkinson, Hearst’s HR Business Partner tells me. “Remember; first and foremost you are there to do a job. Depending on the nature of job, and type of business you are working for, you may have to conduct yourself in a different way to how you are outside work, with friends and family. This is completely reasonable, and in most cases very necessary, which is why it is important you choose the right company to work for in the first place.”
“This means being respectful,” she continues, “and taking a professional approach. Even if the culture is relaxed, you may need to distinguish between your professional and personal self and adapt as necessary. This is not always easy, and can take practice. Watch others who get it right, and take some tips from them – you will soon work it out, but until you’re sure, err on the side of caution!”
“Secondly, think about the relationship you have with your work colleagues. Work is a great opportunity to meet new people but should not always be seen as an extension of your social life. Learn how to keep friendships at work detached from the role you perform to keep distractions to a minimum, and keep your gossip and time with your friends to your free time.”
“Finally, be wary of social media. Think carefully who you accept invitations from on twitter and Facebook – do you really want everyone at work seeing how messy your weekends are? It’s great to use social media to promote your company, and yourself and most companies actively encourage this. However, be warned, Google has a long memory, only post what you are happy for others to see, including your employer.”