Elon Musk, Founder and CEO of 4 global corporations, recently tweeted “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week,” and when asked in the comment section how many hours a week one needs to put in to change the world, he replied with “80-100 hours.”
For the mathematically dis-inclined: that’s 11 ½ hours a day, 7 days a week, at a minimum.
A leader of over 50,000 employees worldwide setting a precedent like this — and then broadcasting it to his 23.5 million Twitter followers – is a big deal. In essence, he’s told his employees that, in order to make great change, they must sacrifice a full and balanced life.
My friends and I all work for an array of organizations – from Fortune 500 companies to 100-year old brands, to 12-person mom and pop shops. The variety across both size and industry is vast, and we find ourselves debating from time to time what a healthy work/life balance really means.
Some of our employers expect nothing more than 35-hours a week, and my friends stick to that religiously. Others put in 50, due to expectation of work load. I personally choose for my weeks to be 50+ hours because I’m a workaholic, I have a problem, and I should seek help. But we all can say with certainty that our employers have never set an expectation that we should put aside life’s many moments for the greater good of the company.
I’m not denying Musk’s genius and how it has generated success for him and the world at large – but how can you really define “changing the world” in the first place? And does it really take 40 extra hours of weekly work to do it? The world is changed every time you offer an ear to someone in need or choose to walk an extra few steps to the recycling bin. And those sorts of actions take a mere 2 minutes in an average day!
Changing the world isn’t about being at work a certain number of hours. Or even being at work at all! You can change the world in your free time. Just because Musk slept on the floor on his way to launching Tesla doesn’t mean the world demands the same sacrifice from the rest of us. In fact, for most of us, a healthy work/life balance is exactly what allows us to pursue OUR vision for a better world – and having an employer that understands and supports that is key for a healthy relationship between employer and employee.
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