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Why over working is bad for you

By Michael Crump | 05 September 2018


So, is over working really that bad for you? Or is putting in some extra time at the office essentially harmless? Many of us have become obsessed with what we do and have joined the cult of overworking. While this cult favours bloodshot eyes and spreadsheets over mystic robes and pointy hoods, it’s just as wicked.

Academics and researchers have started to question the benefits of working long hours, pointing out the litany of ways working too much can, ironically, harm your career rather than advance it.

Below are some issues we believe are likely to arise if you redline your engine for too long and why over working is bad for you. If you’re a rampaging workaholic, take heed and consider a hot dog, a hammock and a holiday. It might give your career a much-needed boost.

The cycle of inefficiency 

How efficient do you think you are at 11:58pm on a Thursday night, your eyelids the weight of a ride-on mower, your train of thought limited to single syllables?

Yet, in some companies, grinding yourself into a pile of dust is a sign of devotion, par for the course and the ‘expected thing to do’. And it’s utter madness. By constantly exhausting yourself you reduce your effectiveness. As a result, to get your work done, you need to work late.

By adopting long work hours as a habit, you’re also less likely to see 25-hour workdays for what they are – an unsustainable problem – and counter productive to the solutions businesses need to grow.

bored woman staring at computer screen


The hibernation of creativity 

In an age where software is regularly making many process-based jobs redundant, creativity and a balanced mind are vital attributes for any flesh and bone employee. Being over worked and bogged down by processes, hefty sales targets and a never-ending inbox reduces your creativity. The ‘what-ifs’ are drowned out by the ‘now-now-nows’.

If you want to be open to new solutions and perspectives, ideas must come from outside. Find time to visit museums and art galleries, read widely, meet new people, and visit (or research) emerging economies for inspiration. That’s when the ideas will come.


The catastrophe of joy

Regardless of how technically marvellous you are, it’s critical co-workers and management like you. So maintain your balance of joy. That doesn’t mean skipping through work while whistling through a lollipop and clicking your loafers, but it does mean your peers should respect the way you manage your boundaries and guard your sense of identity and happiness.

If you’re working too much you’re likely neglecting key areas of your life and that could lead to depression and anxiety. Such mental maladies have a tendency to exacerbate feelings of isolation and stress that can create the perception that you’re unable to control your own emotional health. Why, then, would any manager bestow more responsibility on you?

Get your joy back by cutting your work hours down and investing in a hobby, a social cause, or most obviously – your family.

cutting time concept

At least you still have your health ... right?

They’re not kidding when they say overwork can kill. Marianna Virtanen of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has completed several studies on workers who put in long hours and the outlook for their health is, quite frankly, appalling.

There’s an increase in poor sleeping patterns and, of course, depression. But also of note is the link to heart disease. Her 2010 report on 10,000 white-collar workers in London found that those working 10 hours a day were 60% more likely to have heart-related issues compared with white-collar workers who only clocked on for 7 hours. 60%!

It wasn’t a one-off result either. A follow-up study specifically found coronary heart disease was 40% more likely to develop in those who pumped in longer hours at work.

The precise confluence of factors regarding these figures isn’t yet understood, but it’s a good bet that stress and a lack of rest play their part.

This is also another good reason to get a great night sleep. Trust us, you'll thank us for telling you all the reasons you should go take a nap right now


"It's a marathon, not a sprint."

If you’re around 40 years old, there’s a good chance the future won’t see you spending your retirement days leisurely at the local RSL. The pension’s days are marked and numbered. And with many Australians failing to amass an adequate level of superannuation, it’ll be business as usual for many of us into our 70s.

That means we need to pace ourselves throughout our careers rather than wear ourselves down into an over worked patch of pulp. Suffering career burnout when you’re 40-50 years of age isn’t an option.

This is particularly salient if you’re an over-worker in an industry that doesn’t provide significant remuneration. While investment bankers and lawyers might be able to retire early after a harrowing decade or two, an early exit won’t be an option for all.

Practice balancing work and other responsibilities now so you can find a rhythm you can sustain for the next 40 years or so. If you’re in an industry that’s cyclical (or even at risk of becoming redundant), it might be smart to free up time to study on the side so you can remain vocationally nimble. You won’t be able to do that if you sleep at the office.

people running during marathon race

"No Slave to the Wage" 

Some of us might really love our jobs, others may have a palpable desire to succeed, but by and large most of us would prefer to work to live rather than live to work. So why is it so hard to find that balance?

Increasing costs of living, poor job security and hard-nosed corporate cultures all contribute to the nasty cult of over-work. But with so many career drawbacks, it’s time we strived to spend less time at work and more time doing other ‘human’ stuff. Our lives depend on it.

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