Really Busy

Neil ButlerUntypical Thoughts

In the last Untypical Thought, I called out what I think is a growing trend of people being asked / expected / pressured into working on their weekends and after hours. Whilst it may not be necessarily written into their job descriptions, it seems that many, many people are heading home after a day’s work and getting their laptop out. Others are firing up their email on Sunday to get a head start for the week.

A related trend, in my mind, is the apparent epidemic of people saying how busy they are. Get into a lift at work and you ask a colleague “how are you?”. More often than not, the response will be “really busy at the moment”. Now recognising that “busy” is a relative term – what I call busy may not be what others call busy – how is that the correct response to “how are you?”?

And while the traditional option – “Good, thanks. How about you?” – is arguably no more informative of your colleague’s well-being, why has our response now turned from how we are feeling to how busy we feel we are?

Interestingly, I don’t recall anyone ever saying to me that they AREN’T really busy – only that they are. So why has it come to this, I wonder?

Is it because we are trying to impress our colleagues and our friends? Is it because we need to reassure ourselves that we are making a contribution? Is it that you don’t want to tell people how you are really feeling and “really busy” provides a substitute answer? Is it because how we are seen by those around us is more important that how we feel AND being busy is how you want those around you to see you?

I seriously don’t know the answer but it does concern me a little.

Am I drawing too much of a long bow to suggest that at the same time as “Really Busy” has become a thing, we have also anecdotally seen an increase in the number of people reporting symptoms of poor mental well-being? Is it a coincidence that the RUOK Day has been established at the same time as people are telling their friends and colleagues how busy they are rather than how they are feeling?

I don’t have the answers to these questions – I simply throw them out there to hopefully make you think. The next time someone asks you how you are, is “really busy” the correct response or should you take the opportunity to let them know? Next time someone tells you that they are really busy, should you be taking THAT chance to probe a little further in case being “really busy” is creating pressure and stress in their lives?

Please take some time to find out how your friends and colleagues are instead of how busy they are. You never know just how important that conversation might be.

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