Having inadvertently given my friends and family the impression I work all day and every day, I started to think about whether the cult of “Presenteeism” is as strong in the self-employed community as it is among employees. Surely it shouldn’t be … and if it is, what can we do about it?
What is presenteeism?
We’ve all heard of absenteeism, or the practice of regularly removing oneself from the working environment for no good reason. Presenteeism is the opposite. It’s in the Oxford Concise Dictionary, and here’s how they define it:
The practice of being present at work for longer than required, especially as a manifestation of insecurity about one’s job,
This manifests itself in that classic competition over who can stay latest in the office (or, more importantly, who can be seen to be staying latest in the office. Or being in earliest. Or both. We’ve all sent an email to the boss when we’ve got in particularly early, haven’t we?
Now, that’s all well and good when you have a boss to impress. But what if you work on your own? And I’m admitting doing this myself, here – although inadvertently. It’s easy to send that Tweet or Facebook status at the end of a long day …
Phew – done 10 hours at the desk today – big project!!!!
but is it so easy to say
Good day, did a couple of hours of work, all caught up so I lay around reading for a few hours
Well, is it?
Why do we have to engage in presenteeism?
I’d be interested to work out why we do this. Are we so busy trying to combat that insidious view of freelancers as people who sit around in their pyjamas watching daytime telly? Surely our friends and family know we don’t do that by now?
If you work in an office, you will tend to have set start and finish times, a proper lunch break, and weekends off (or a set working pattern) and holidays. How many freelancers take the full holiday entitlement they would be given as an employee? I know I probably don’t.
So when it’s quiet, we’re up to date and we skip off merrily to the cafe, or the gym, or just lounge in the garden for an hour or so, is that really a crime?
And isn’t it better for our friends and family to know we’re happy. whole, balanced and relaxed than working every hour there is on a hideous treadmill of work? Didn’t at least some of us go freelance to avoid that hideous treadmill of work?
Celebrate balance, not overwork
I’m not suggesting we stop working when we need to be working. Everyone has to pull one of those 11 hour shifts sometimes. But let’s all be honest about how we live, celebrate the downtime as well as the busy times, and acknowledge that, yes, we do do this in order to have balance and flexibility in our lives, and we do have work patterns which are different, but balanced over the grand scheme of things.
I’m going to talk about this in public – I dare you to too!