Book review: The Activity Illusion

Emma de Vita reviews the new book from Ian Price

Off the shelf
Off the shelf

A long-hours culture has led to most managers putting in a huge amount of unpaid overtime.

It wasn't meant to be like this. Back in 1953, Winston Churchill predicted that if we managed not to nuke ourselves into obliteration, the end of the Cold War would bring disarmament, increased production and therefore increased leisure time for the worker. "A four-day week, then three days fun," he claimed.

So what went wrong? Why do we work such long hours? Why do we feel the need to be busy all the time? Technology was meant to make us become more effective workers, not overload us with extra work. The consultant Ian Price, author of The Activity Illusion, argues that part of the problem is our attitude towards busyness. The busier you are, the more important you are.

How do you fix it? Change your workplace culture, recommends Price. Start with a few email rules: for example, that email cannot be used for internal communication or accessed outside office hours. You could also encourage staff to read email in blocks. Small changes such as these can produce big results. It's simply a matter of instilling common sense so you can work to live rather than live to work.

Emma De Vita is books editor of Management Today

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