The most indispensible jobs (in children’s books)

The busyness trap has engulfed the workplace.

CEOs pressure their executives to put in more time. In turn, executives pressure managers who then pressure their employees, with smartphones keeping us tethered to the office 24-7.

Meanwhile, big-box retailers are opening their doors on Thanksgiving because shoppers can’t possibly wait until midnight on Friday to start shopping.

Tim Kreider described this busyness trap in a recent column for The New York Times—a column that also inspired a PR Daily contribution from Melissa Johnson—in which Kreider describes “busy” as the default response whenever you ask someone how they’re doing, even if that busyness is a result of self-imposed deadlines and activities.

Meanwhile, “family-friendly” and “work-life balance” are no longer talked about in the modern workplace because of what Tim Kreider calls a “pretense of indispensability.”

According to Kreider:

“. . . so it’s hard to see this pretense of indispensability as anything other than a form of institutional self-delusion. More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”

Strong words.

Unable to get them out of my head, I went to my sons’ Richard Scarry books and took a look at the jobs performed by cats and boa constrictors. Here are a few examples:

• doctors
• nurses
• fire fighters
• police officers
• teachers
• dentists
• plumbers
• farmers

(Richard Scarry does mention writers: “There are all kinds of writers. The best writers write children’s books.”)

I think most of us would agree that these jobs are indispensable and there are reasons people performing them need to be on call 24-7. But do retail employees really need to be at their stations at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving?

Do we as writers, editors, and PR professionals really need to be answering email from our bosses on Thanksgiving? Do we need to work late or through lunch because our employers are demanding more of our time?

How much of our busyness in the work place is the result of the “delusion of indispensability?” Readers, care to take a break and weigh in?

This article originally appeared on Ragan Communication’s PR Daily.



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