When I met a friend recently, I asked him how work was. “Oh, just coasting,” he said. He’s not alone. According to a recent poll, one-third of the 3,000 people surveyed said they were “coasting” at work. This may come as a surprise in an age when so many people spend so much time complaining about how busy they are. But most of this talk about busyness is balderdash. According to a study by researchers at Oxford University, we do not, in fact, spend more time working than we have in the past. On some measures, the amount we work has gone down. Instead, many people just have jobs filled with tasks that don’t really need to be done.
The way we look at coasting has radically changed. In the past, being relaxed and not burdened with too much work was a sign of status. Now, being extremely busy shows you are important. If you are not insanely overburdened, then you are seen as a slacker.
This does not make sense. Most people are not as busy as they say they are. In fact, most pressing tasks at work are often unrelated to productivity. Many busy people are actually overburdened with telling others how busy they are. Being obsessed with your job may make you feel important, but it’s likely to alienate friends, co-workers and your family. What’s more, being super-busy all the time is not good for you. Another study found that people who are overburdened with work tend to have a worse sense of wellbeing than those who are more relaxed. The researchers also found that being super-busy is bad for your career. Those who reported working very intensely were associated with poorer career outcomes.
So, perhaps coasters are not a drag on productivity. Maybe they have worked out that the secret to a productive and healthy life is not being too busy, and certainly not going on about how busy you are. We should remember Bertrand Russell’s adage: “One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
We have some news …
… three years ago, we knew we had to try to make The Guardian sustainable by deepening our relationship with our readers. The revenues from our newspaper had diminished and the technologies that connected us with a global audience had moved advertising money away from news organisations. We knew we needed to find a way to keep our journalism open and accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.
And so, we have an update for you on some good news. Thanks to all the readers who have supported our independent, investigative journalism through contributions, membership or subscriptions, we are starting to overcome the urgent financial situation we were faced with. Today we have been supported by more than a million readers around the world. Our future is starting to look brighter. But we have to maintain and build on that level of support for every year to come, which means we still need to ask for your help.
Ongoing financial support from our readers means we can continue pursuing difficult stories in the challenging times we are living through, when factual reporting has never been more critical. The Guardian is editorially independent – our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. This is important because it enables us to challenge the powerful and hold them to account. With your support, we can continue bringing The Guardian’s independent journalism to the world.