I often joke about the “always-on” nature of the American professional. The work ethic is baked into the American psyche to the point that most Americans have trouble going on vacation without checking their email (what little vacation Americans get). It is not always so much that an American cannot stop working as it is that Americans feel less stress and enjoy the vacation more if they track what is going on in their absence, even if they don’t take action on anything during the vacation.
The Nordic work ethic, on the other hand, is just about the polar opposite. Vacation is serious and no interruption will be tolerated. In most cases. At least this is how it has been in most of my Scandinavian work experiences. While I will never be able to turn off the American worker bee inside me, I support the sentiment of separating work from vacation and time off, and thus am surprised and not pleased when I encounter Nordic corporate exception.
In managerial roles, people need to lead by example. I have of late encountered a lot of people who are taking work home, proudly announcing that they are up late at night answering emails and get up early to get two or three hours (!) of quiet time to work before they actually come to the office. The problem with this is not so much that managers are working at all hours, which is their prerogative, but that they are placing these kinds of expectations on others. I would call this a problem of “presenteeism”. You can be too present. Being present and working at all hours of day and night – and showing everyone that you are working – a manager is creating an environment that makes his/her entire team feel as though he is not doing enough if s/he is not working as much as the manager is, especially when this workaholic enthusiasm is overflowing. Nothing wrong with doing your job and loving it- but maybe some of the sending emails in the middle of the night could be curtailed.
Personally, I find this more troublesome when a workplace is particularly inflexible otherwise. With the way the workplace is changing, I would expect something different.
I have spent almost 15 years freelancing and working remotely. As the new century dawned and I took up residence in a new country, I had to adapt to a lot of new things – and part of that was finding a professional niche for myself. It also seemed like the dawn of a new era that would enable remote/virtual work, particularly in fields like mine (content development, writing, editing). To varying degrees, things have been moving in that direction, depending on the industry I worked in. Obviously the home office let me be the ever-present, never-present workaholic. That is, I have been available to work 24/7 without ever being present in an office. I have always been a happy American-style worker, and my home office is the most productive environment for me. As my regular, full-time jobs took the direction of allowing me to work primarily from home, I have realized that this is the only way for me to work.
The trick now will be to find the place that acknowledges my home as my office and will let me turn up in a real office on occasion, car loaded with hundreds and hundreds of cookies.
Send me a sign/leads – and cookies can be yours. Seriously – give me a lead, and I will give you cookies.