At this point BP CEO Tony Hayward may just want to stay in his office for a while, even if he does nothing else than play solitaire. In the company’s most recent public relations gaffe, Hayward was seen attending a prestigious yacht race back in England. Hayward has a 52-foot yacht named “Bob” that is taking part in the race.
The story immediately made headlines in the U.S. The image of a rich British CEO in his Ralph Lauren polo shirt, watching a yacht race with his other CEO buddies certainly plays well into the anti-BP narrative. Most stories covering “yacht gate” also make mention of a golf outing by President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden today.
The inference behind these stories is that these leaders should be spending every minute focused like a laser on the Gulf oil spill crisis. One could question whether this expectation is entirely justified. Most Americans, including the engineers working to stop the leak, relief workers cleaning oil-covered birds, and journalists writing these stories will take a break at some point this weekend to watch television or engage in any number of other leisure activities. Hayward’s choice of venue across the Atlantic Ocean is questionable (and he has certainly made other serious errors in the spill response), but the idea that no one can enjoy anything in life until the oil spill is over seems a bit absurd.
An appropriate amount of time should surely be devoted to the disaster. By most accounts the President works about a 10-hour workday on most days, and Americans can judge for themselves whether that is good enough. There are no records on Hayward’s average work day. Could both do more? Probably. As could most Americans. But at a certain point more time devoted to a task ceases to be productive. As leaders in charge of the relief effort, Hayward and President Obama certainly have a higher degree of responsibility, but would it really be a good thing if both committed every waking minute to the disaster?
There is a reason the 40-hour work week has become relatively common around the world (a bit less in most countries). A regular routine of 70 to 80-hour work weeks has a detrimental affect on health, and can eventually lead to serious mistakes in the workplace due to excessive stress and fatigue. This is why air traffic controllers and pilots are limited in the amount of time they can work within certain time periods.
Are thousands people struggling on the Gulf Coast right now? Absolutely, and our thoughts, prayers, and support should be with them in their time of need. Is it possible to support them while still playing a round of golf this weekend? Absolutely, just as it was possible for the people of New Orleans to watch the Super Bowl while still supporting the people suffering in Haiti.
For more info: Latest updates and pictures from the Gulf Coast oil spill.