12th March 2021 marked the ten year anniversary of the release of Daft Punk’s ‘Discovery’. The album featured the infamous song ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’.
Considered one of the staple songs on a workout playlist, as well as a floor filler in even the most modern clubs around the world, Daft Punk’s legendary song taps into the ideology that work is never over and that working harder makes us stronger.
The irony of this is that in February of this year, a month before celebrating their album’s ten year anniversary, Daft Punk themselves retired. Quitting work and disproving their own statement about work never being over.
We’ve decided to flip the original message on its head and ask whether working harder really makes us stronger? And if it does, who benefits?
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What does it mean to work ‘harder’?
If asked a couple of years ago, the answer would likely have been linked to the amount of time spent at work or on a laptop, taking into account a lack of breaks, significant overtime, weekend work, and taking work home in the evenings. Working “hard” has long been associated with those who push beyond what is expected of them. Reaping the greatest rewards, creating a blurring of the line between working hard and overworking.
But times are changing. The pandemic has caused a shift in the average working day experience. Across all levels of every business, in every industry, that working hard boasts a completely different meaning.
Today, as we embrace the new hybrid nature of working at home and in the office, working harder holds a new meaning. It’s a meaning which celebrates a greater emphasis on the work-life balance. It proves that homeschooling and other at-home activities are themselves an integral form of “work”.
Could a new definition change our attitude to hard work?
Homeworking has provided employees with a flavour of what it’s like to work from the comfort of their own home. For some, this has worked well, allowing them to juggle home life and their working life much more effectively. As long as they have the right tools and the necessary resources to support their work, they can meet deadlines and work effectively. Despite the distance from the office and the direct support of colleagues. For others the lack of a clear line between home and work has created new challenges. With the proximity and close link between work and home meaning that it can be difficult to switch off from work and really immerse themselves back into home and family life, and vice versa.
While there are things that individuals can do to protect themselves from these challenges, such as keeping work in a separate room and closing the door on that room at the end of the day, or even keeping their work in an outside space where possible, for many the lack of distance presents its own challenge and makes work a difficult thing to walk away from. This leads to overworking, burnout, and ultimate inefficiencies that are difficult to manage.
This is where the business holds responsibility for acknowledging the shift in the work-life balance. With simple changes, it’s doable. Make deadlines more attainable, cease expecting quick responses from employees outside of the core working hours, and stop only rewarding those who put in extensive extra hours outside of work. The pandemic and the move to home working has proved that working harder doesn’t have to mean working longer – and has shown businesses across all industries that work DOES have to be over at some point, for the benefit of employee’s mental health.
The Importance of Mental Health
Looking back on the lyrics from Daft Punk, another question springs to mind. Does working harder, better, and faster, make an INDIVIDUAL stronger or the BUSINESS stronger?
The media has, in recent years, put a real spotlight on the importance of mental wellbeing and the responsibility of businesses in protecting their employees with a variety of mental support systems – from office activities to mental health days off and everything in between. For many however, these kinds of initiatives are plastering over a problem with a very basic solution. The solution? Stop putting so much pressure on your employees and expecting to keep them happy with yoga at lunchtime and the odd extra day off or team building activity.
Instead, consider how much better your employees would feel, and how much more motivated they would be, if they really felt like they were supported and listened to. The majority of teams across all industries are not looking for free days off, but instead would value a little less pressure across their generic workdays.
The distinction between making the business stronger and making individual employees stronger is one of great importance, with both necessary to keep the business running smoothly and efficiently. A business is only as good as the people behind the scenes making it happen, and so shifting your business perspective to acknowledge the mental wellbeing of the team is crucial in keeping your business moving from strength to strength.
Did Daft Punk touch on something important?
If you know the song, you will know how repetitive it is. The tune and lyrics remain basically the same throughout, repeating the same refrain to really drive the message home. By doing this, not only have Daft Punk created a legendary tune and song that pretty much everyone can sing along to, but they have also hit on an important point to note – repetition is great… to a point.
How many times could you listen to “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” before you had to turn it off?
Probably only once or twice in reality, right?
Well, work and the work you do operates in exactly the same way. Employees can only go so long doing the same thing, day-in and day-out before they need a change in routine. Repetitive and routine work is not enough to keep us motivated and driven. We all need new experiences and new challenges which keep us stimulated. Employers that provide an opportunity for personal development and growth are onto a winner. Rewarding those who demonstrate real potential in the role they are given – regardless of the overtime they put in is key.
Become the kind of business where employees are not expected to stay for hours of overtime work, and you may find that your workforce becomes stronger all by itself.
The song itself may be 10+ years old, but the messages it shares are still very important in the world of business and beyond. Working hard is still an important part of life, but what needs to change is our definition of hard work and what it means to put our all into something.
In today’s society, working hard requires a balance, and no longer has to mean putting in extra hours and responding to emails at 10pm every night.
Working fast needs to be linked to realistic goals, with businesses putting their all into supporting employees and helping them to hit their targets.
Working ‘better’ means working effectively and efficiently, boosted by the right people and the right resources.
And working ‘stronger’ means understanding the difference between the business being stronger and the individuals being stronger – and how both need to be nurtured in order to get the best results.