The other Saturday I followed my usual weekend programme. That is, after my morning run, I made myself a coffee (thanks for the beans, C4 Coffee) and sat down with the Weekend Press to catch up on the news and get my weekly dose of catching up on the OpEds.

I like my weekends, they’re a chance to get in some long runs, spend some quality hours in the workshop and catch up on reading the hundreds of pages of board papers that I invariably have before the week ahead.

Anyway, on this particular Saturday there were a few opinion pieces about modern work practices. You can imagine the themes – Work from Home, Quiet Quitting, the Four Day Work Week and a new one on me, 85% Work. It seems that 85% Work is a new trend among millennials (I can’t keep up with the generational nomenclature – maybe they’re Xenials or something). In this particular trend du jour, these youngsters actively put in less than 100% effort in order to chill a bit and, in the works of the writer “not burn out.”

At the same time, and on the same weekend, there was a bit of a flurry in my inbox about the GirlBoss movement, an initiative that aims to celebrate women in leadership. In particular, GirlBoss aims to celebrate those who push back against historical societal and gender norms and seize the day to further entrepreneurial ambitions. In a more gender-non-specific vein, there were a few articles about the need to “hustle” and that in this dynamic and fast-paced world agility is the key marker of success.

I finished reading and my head was spinning. Not because of the coffee, mind, but because of these glaringly mixed messages that leave me, let alone a young person looking for guidance, confused about the path forward.

Is one to hustle, to break the glass ceiling, to put in the requisite 10,000 hours it theoretically takes to master a skill? Or is one to take the counter path, that of disengaging, purposely not giving it one’s all, and quietly opting out?

Of course, being middle-aged, whatever I see will be shouted down by accusations of privilege. I can hear the cries of “OK, boomer” already (despite the fact that I’m pretty sure I’m Gen X). The wails of discontent from an entire generation (or two) who tell older people that we just don’t understand and that daily brunching is a critically important pastime.

At the risk of sounding like that aforementioned Boomer, the great thing about entering middle age is that one understands what youth is like, while at the same time having celebrated many trips around the sun. One remembers fondly the years of one’s 20s and 30s when one was full of energy, bulletproof and unbeatable. One yearns for those years, but feels relief that at least we took advantage of them while they lasted.

The fact of the matter is that when one hits the 40s and 50s, the energy levels just aren’t the same. Even if we wanted to we couldn’t work the eighteen-hour days of the past. We couldn’t party all night only to get up at dawn to head back to work. Fortunately for most of us, all those decades spent working hard set us up such that we can kick back a little later on in life.

Youth is the time when we can work longer and harder than anyone else. It’s the age when getting to the office before the boss, only to leave after she (or he) has finished is a smart move to send a message of dedication and commitment. It’s the time when we can simultaneously build a career, compete in sports at a high level, socialize plenty and still stay trim and fit. It’s the one time in our lives when we can really double down and put the effort in.

And now young people are being told to disengage and seek balance.

It all sounds good in theory, but it risks sending young people down a path of regret whereby they’ll wake up one morning and wonder where all those wasted years went.

It may not be a sexy thing to say these days, and it may get me some serious admonishment from my progeny and their partners, but youth is all about being unbalanced. It’s all about burning the candle at both ends and leveraging those ample stores of energy for longer-term gain.

If you subscribe to the 85% Work view, I fear that, rather than robbing your employer of that 15%, you’re actually robbing your future self. Think about it.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • Great words Ben…..I love the Brian FM comment along the lines of ….. enjoy your 20’s, 30’s and 40’s coz in your 50’s your check engine light come on. Agree … 100% makes you get the most out of life … you get older the 100% you can give simply becomes less.(luckily age and experience …from those early years hopefully makes your more effective also). Watch an old squash player….less running and energy but just a little more thinking,skill and being sneaky keeps you in the game -)

  • Andrew MacLachlan |

    Going to agree, Ben. A major part of the problem is these opinion pieces written by people who have absolutely not the first idea what they are talking about. I call it copy-paste journalism, although I’m hesitant to call them journalists. Perhaps I’m just a grumpy old man.
    I do see a LOT of youngsters working hard, burning the candle at both ends and NOT quiet quitting, or daily brunching, or yearning for a 4 day work week, so maybe the problem is just the writers (or copy-pasters) of the trash du jour?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.