Last month, 22-year-old Molly Mae Hague (creative director of PrettyLittleThing) came under fire for a statement made in the popular business podcast, “The Diary of a CEO,” which said that we all have the same 24 hours in a day.”
While we can slander internet personalities for preaching that we all have the same 24 hours per day, we must consider the ways in which such a statement is embodied by us in our own lives and what kind of culture this perpetuates.
A benevolent interpretation of such a statement is akin to the “American Dream”, in which any individual is capable of building a legacy through sheer dedication and will. Based on this assumption, if we all have the same 24 hours, then surely we should always be doing something which propels us further to potential success. Otherwise, we are lazy, wasteful or ineffectual - right? It’s no wonder that this kind of statement lends itself nicely to the notion that we should always be “on,” creating the assumption that there is always something we could or should be doing.
First, take a look at the economic reality for many, such a statement is not fit for practice. It omits the harsh truth that not everybody plays on a level field. With 14% of the UK’s population living in poverty (under 60% of the UK’s median income), and BAME households comprising the majority of this figure, it would be ignorant to assume that all 24 hours are the same and if one simply tried hard enough that this alone would extricate them from their situation.
Building on this, we can already see that from a systemic level, we do not all have the same 24 hours in a day. Leaning more into the individual context, the overarching downside of the same-24-hours sentiment is that it entirely eradicates the reality for individuals and their specific life circumstances.
As well, where this type of belief feeds itself into an organisation, it sets a precedent whereby output and productivity are the gold standards that everyone should not only be achieving but maintaining constantly.
Therefore, it’s unsurprising that we are obsessed with being productive because somehow it has become synonymous with self-worth. The pandemic only added fuel to this fire as it saw most of us shift to working at home for the first time. A strange paradox emerged whereby workers were more engaged at work, yet far more prone to heightened worry and stress in tandem. Indeed, even a recent study showed that 80% of respondents saw increased instances of burnout, with 37% reporting a marked increase.
This obsession with productivity, combined with individual differences is a perfect storm and highlight a need for companies to pay greater attention to their expectations of their employees.
For example, parents of young children saw unprecedented changes to their role both in and out of work, having to balance these two heavily spinning plates. Particularly in the case of single parents, lower-income households, or parents with young children, the effect of working from home and the pandemic was linked to high displays of psychological distress. What level of productivity, or more importantly, a sense of wellbeing can truly be maintained while walking such a tightrope?
Also, how well can we walk such a tightrope when coping with the underlying burden that we have to be “different” at work to fit in? The Financial Times cited the reduced need to “code switch” and the lower likelihood of racial microaggressions as predominant factors resulting in only 3% of black remote workers wanting to return to the office. This again shows that the lived experience of 24 hours at work is truly not the same and that pressures beyond busy schedules and deadlines can impinge one’s sense of identity, wellbeing and productivity in the workplace.
No society, organisation or individual is perfect. However, there is the power that comes from admitting where you might have got it wrong, and what steps you can take to get it right.
Here at untapped.ai, we want to help you build stronger cultures founded on empathy, adaptability and resilience. We know that companies strive to be better, but are sometimes at a loss for know-how. That’s why we work with organisations at an individual level. Using our unique methodology combining EQ and AI, we are able to get a true picture of what’s really going on in each of your people’s 24 hours to accelerate bottom-up organisational change.