The cult of overwork

Tired

CNN asked 12 well-known leaders including Carlos Ghosn of Nissan, Marissa Mayer of Google and Wynton Marsalis how they manage their time and stay efficient.

My favorite answer is this one:

I know that it’s de rigeur for executives to start the day extremely early, but frankly I feel I make better decisions and relate better to people when I’m well rested. So I usually get up around 8 after a good night’s sleep.

I also make sure to work a standard 40-hour week and never work in the weekends. This is important to me for two reasons. First of all, I have a life outside of work. I have a family who likes to have me around and friends and hobbies that I also want to have time for. I find that the time I spend outside of work recharges my batteries, expands my horizons and actually makes me more efficient at work.

Secondly, if I’m always seen arriving at the office at 6 in the morning and leaving at 9 in the evening, not to mention taking calls and writing emails late at night and all weekend, it’s sure to send a signal to my employees that this is what the company expects, that this is “the right way”. But it isn’t.

It’s a simple fact that for most leaders and employees, the first 40 hours they work each week are worth much more to the company than the next 20, 30 or 40 hours. But those extra hours spent at work can harm your private life, your family and your health. Which in turn becomes damaging to the company.

Frankly, if you can’t structure your time so your work fits inside a 40-hour week, you need to get better at prioritizing and delegating.

Refreshing words. Guess which of the executives said that?

Come on, take a guess!

NONE OF THEM! Not one.

Instead, there’s a lot of “I get up at 5 and arrive at the office at 6″ and “I work 16 hours a day” and “I take a lot of calls on the drive in to the office” and “I usually leave the office at 7 and then work a few more hours in the evening at home.”

I fully expected one of them to go “I get up at 4 in the morning, half an hour before I go to bed, and work a 27-hour day, only stopping for a 3-minute lunch break in which two assistants stuff food down my throat like a foie-gras goose.”

I know it’s normal to view people working this hard as heroes of the organization. And I’m sure they know what they’re doing and have structured their life according to what works best for them.

But still I think they would be more efficient and enjoy life more if they cut down their time at work. They may find that they become more open, less stressed, have more fun AND are better role models for their employees. This cult of overwork has got to stop.

Some of them do great stuff too. Marissa Mayer of Google sits in her office every day from 4 to 5:30 ready to answer any question from employees. There’s a sign-up sheet on the door and couches and laptop-power for the people waiting to see her.

Bill Gross of Pimco leaves the office every day at 8:30AM for a 90-minute work-out and yoga session.

That’s great stuff and we need more of that, but the school of “work your butt off, everything else comes second” is bad for business and bad for people. Can we please retire this tired idea once and for all?

If you liked this post, I think you’ll also enjoy these:

100 thoughts on “The cult of overwork”

  1. I think it’s starting to S-L-O-W-L-Y shift … at least I’m seeing some of the shift here in my hometown of Fargo, North Dakota.

    One of my best friends, a former bank executive who owned her own financial planning business for 6 years, recently rejoined a bank because they promised her an opportunity to set her own hours and have a bigger impact on the world. She took the opportunity and has been working far fewer hours, making a far greater impact … but it’s not where she may have expected. Her impact is being felt most with her kids – and also with her co-workers. They seek her out as a haven in a busy world … and her new employer realizes that, on some level. It’s an intuitive thing, but it’s manifesting itself in results. I’m very encouraged.

  2. That’s it Jodee! What your friend is doing, is it exactly!

    I think you’re right and we are starting to see a shift – the increased focus on work-life balance is an example of this.

    Do you think your friend can be persuaded to tell her story? I’m sure there are many stories like this, and the more they’re told, the better.

  3. I will find out if she’s ready to tell her story yet. Right now (it’s been about 5 months at this position) she’s still kind of shell-shocked that a bank would allow her the flexibility she enjoys. She has brought with her some corporate baggage, even though she was on her own for 6 years – the baggage that feels obligated to punch the proverbial time clock and make excuses for not being a 60-hour-a-week executive. But I’m guessing that it won’t be long as the results are speaking for themselves. I’m thinking about doing some sort of report about this bank … they are truly revolutionary in their leadership principles – and people are flocking to work for them – from other banks, but also from other independent businesses. It’s a amazing story. I’ll keep you posted!

  4. What a great reminder to all of us to be as productive as possible in the 40 hours scheduled, and then be as productive as possible in the rest of our life too. Great stuff!

  5. Alexander, I think you’ve captured a fundamental challenge of our time…how to make an escape from the cult of overwork. Cultural brainwashing would have us believe that our value is tightly woven into the quantity of time we give to our work rather than the quality. And perhaps worse, the cult assumes that our singular work is everything and all-consuming. Got other passions? Leave ‘em at the door if you want to be a leader in business.

    As for me…I’m in the process of saying ‘adios’ to the culture of overwork and hyperprofessionalism that pervades Washington, DC and heading to Austin, TX to make a go at a different way…one where I have the ability to explore more of my curiosities and passionate interests. Maybe I’ll still be a leader in business and hold out another model like the wonderful fictional story you tell above. Or maybe none of my paths will lead there. Whatever it is, I’m convinced that my happiness (and all of our happiness) can be discovered when I open my soul to playfully exploring all that this world has to offer me. I can’t imagine doing any of that tied to one job/one office/one chair for 16 hours, 6 days a week.

  6. Another great article. Thank you. It reminds me of a tale a good friend and ex-colleague told me. He moved from a job in the UK (where 12hrs, 6 days a week were the norm) to work for an American company in Frankfurt. He just continued his regular working hours. At the end of his second week his (Swedish) boss took him to one side… “Joe, we’re concerned that you don’t seem able to complete your work in a normal 35 hour week… What can we do to help you?”

    Just hearing this story was one of those “paradigm shift” moments for me.

    Dave Mac

  7. What a great story Dave! And I do believe that the Swedish manager’s attitude to long hours is healthier *and* more prouctive than what your friend had been used to.

  8. Let’s take it a step further, shall we? For instance, many engineers, writers, and artists are working 40-hour (Well, actually 50+ hour) weeks, simply because that’s what is required on the assembly line. By forcing creative people to work those hours we actually them LESS productive and creative, thus damaging the organization.

    Now, I’m not “empowered” to allow my people to leave work early, so I just tell them to give me 5 good hours of work each day, and surf/chat/play the rest. The result? My teams continue to be the most productive in the company!

  9. Spoken like a bunch of people who hate work and want to do the minimum they can get away with. Look, I have news for you — just like your family and friends and free time and playing around and goofing off and hobbies are YOUR priority — some of us find WORK *our* priority. Some of us don’t have families or extensive hobbies becuase we LIKE to work and we like accomplishing things at work and being productive.

    You may look at it as “the more time I spend at work, the less time I have for my family, friends and hobbies and sitting around”. I look at my life as “the more family I have; the more friends I have; the more hobbies I have; the more time I waste sitting around… the less time I have for my work”.

    If cleaning up after a toddler, paying a mortgage, driving a mini-van, drinking beer and watching football and having brunch with the family are more important to you than work – fine. But some of us already have our priorities straight and just because ours don’t match yours doesn’t mean that it’s “wasted” because we’ve spent it on work.

  10. “Joe, were concerned that you dont seem able to complete your work in a normal 35 hour week What can we do to help you?

  11. Very clever. You had me going at the start, I was all ready to have a new CEO hero. Then you tell me they’re all stuck at the same old same old. It’s pretty good where I am now – my immediate boss is a strong believer in leaving at 5.30 as the rule rather than the exception. It’s been explicity stated that the decline in productivity after that means it’s hardly ever worthwhile to work longer hours. We do it when there’s a deadline but not every day. Seems sane to me.

  12. In response to Ridiculous:

    We know there’s never a shortage of work to be done. That’s (hopefully) the nature of your business – especially for consultant/custom software developers. The more work you have stacked up in the queue, the better the company is doing.

    The reason that he is advocating working the “standard” work week, or even less is that after a certain point, the quality goes down while the hours go up. Sure, I can crank out code for a 100 hours a week. Almost anyone can. But I gaurantee that after the 40 hour mark, the quality starts to drop off. Especially if you hit that mark on a Wednesday (assuming you started the count from Monday).

    But what happens to the rest of our lives? What about your family (if you come home to one)? Friends? Hobbies? Anything outside of work? Most of us work to support the rest of our lives. I come home after work, and then spend time with my wife, play with our dog, fire up the 360. Or we go to dinner. Or we hang out with friends. Any number of things that I could not do if I’ve been at the office for 18 hours that day and need to get 4 hours of sleep just so I can head back to work.

    Just my two cents.

  13. Phaedrus: That absolutely rocks. Kudos!

    Ridiculous: I see your point, but this is not about not liking work and trying to avoid it. I *love* my job but still realize, that beyond a certain point, working more hours means that I both get less work done and that I start neglecting other things that matter to me.

    And remember: If 40 hours a week gets you x amount of work, 80 hours does not get you 2x. Especially not if it’s *every* week.

    Mr. Angry: Glad you liked it, sorry I couldn’t supply a new hero CEO, but here’s one for ya: http://positivesharing.com/2006/05/book-review-the-seven-day-weekend

    Ricardo Semler would totally agree on this issue, as his books show.

    Nic: Exactly! Quality goes down, meaning that you may have to go back and re-check or even re-do that work later. AND the rest of your life suffers.

    If there’s always more work to do, then what’s the point in working 80 hours – you still won’t be finished :o)

  14. This is a tough one. I can see the point from both Alexander’s and Ridiculous’ arguments.

    However a thing which seems to have avoided this discussion, is the whole obsessing with time. It seems that we treat time as money something to be wasted, spent, used or invested. You pay money to buy time(i.e. by having someone else to iron your expensive shirts) and you invest time to earn more money. You can even optimize your time so you have the most “quality time” i.e. with your familiy, instead of merely “time”.
    For me, the whole point in “leisure” should be to avoid “time”, however, the term “spare time” seems to connect the two pretty tightly. I think that one of the problems with stress is not that people are working too much, but also that fact that they are pretty f***ng scared to waste their sparse leisure time. It puts an enourmous pressure on you, because you have to decide what to do all the time, since you otherwise would face the risk of wasting your time.

    How about skipping the whole “time” concept? I’ve stopped dividing my time into work and leisure, since it seems to overlap in great extend. I’m a student, and I also run my own company on the sideline so I have the freedom to do this. I read the same books, magazines and websites. When I’m in the mood for designing websites, I do that. When I’m in the mood for reading about communication or linguistics I do that. When I’m in the mood for sleeping I do that. I still seem that I love what I do enough to get the jobs done par excellence. frankly I don’t know if I’m working more or less than 40 hours a week. It doesn’t feel like that, but on the other hand: I don’t do much else, and I don’t sleep that much either.
    But of course no manager of today would ever believe in an approach like this. unfortunately. If my company ever grows big enough to hire someone, I’m also unsure if I would have the courage to try it myself… but I hope so.

    partly inspired by Lakoff & Johnson “Metaphors we live by”, and Margaret Wheatley “Leadership and the new science”

  15. I agree wholeheartedly with the 40-hour week and try whereever possible to stick to it. BUT I work in a male dominated, long hours culture, where if you leave the office at 5.30, witty comments such as ‘Thanks for calling’ are thrown around. There is enormous pressure to work long hours. What isn’t focussed on is productivity and profit from the hours worked. If I can produce more deliverables/projects at a greater profit level, then who’s the fool? Me, sitting at home enjoying a glass of wine, chatting to my significant other, or a colleague doing 60 hours and being patted on the back for his ‘hard work’. Who’s working harder/most effectively? Scott Adams has a great chapter on the ‘OA5′ (out at five) concept in ‘The Dilbert Principle’. He focusses on the limited mental ability anyone has in one day and also all the superfluous crap we have to fit into a day at work (unnecessary meetings etc). I just need to instil that culture into my industry somehow – any ideas???

  16. Mathias, I really like your thinking. We definitely need a new approach to time, and one thing I try to do is not to treat time as a scarce resource. If you manage time from a lack mentality (as in OMG, there’s only 24 hours in each day, how can I ever get all my stuff done), you’re always behind.

    Instead, I try to cultivate an abundance mentality towards time. I don’t have time, I *make* time. For whatever I want. It follows that you also have to accept your time choices and enjoy the things you chose to make time for and not worry about the things you didn’t. It sounds pretty close to what you’re doing, don’t you think?

    Mel: Changing an ingrown business culture that’s been around for years is really easy. This is how you do it:



    Just kidding :o) It can actually be really difficult.

    Results certainly help. If you can document your approach and the results it gets you then it would be hard to fault you. The business world does, after all, run on results.

    Ultimately, each of us possesses one way to get around these managers: Leave! If change is impossible where we are, we can move to a different position or a different company where a more enlightened approach is practised.

  17. I used to work at a company with a strong “overwork” culture. After two years obsessing about getting in at 7, leaving at 7 (and then working even more from home), my wife had a baby. I took a week off, then felt justified in limiting my work to 40 hours for the next couple of months (due to my lack of sleep and need to help around the house).

    In that two-month period I realized I accomplished exactly as much and was exactly as busy as I was when I worked ~60 hours/week. From then on, I was in at 8, out at 5, aside from the occasional large project, and I completely stopped working at home. I was never happier, more organized or more successful in that job.

    With this peace of mind and free time, I was able to invest a few hours in learning the GTD system, learning more about my field and getting more involved in professional and community organizations. (This may have averaged about 3 hours/week at the max.) All that I learned in this time enabled me to get a new job and a significantly higher salary.

    Meanwhile, when I talk to employees at the old company, they’re bragging about the 75-hour workweeks and discussing which anti-anxiety meds they take.

  18. I cannot stand the workaholic mentality. When I was a teenager just out of high school, my stepfather made it very clear that he thought I was lazy and practically worthless since I wouldn’t work an additional five to six hours at home after putting in my eight hours at work like he did. (he owned his own machining buisness and he did not need my help, just felt walked all over when someone wasn’t working as much as he was) So my rebellious streak starts rising to the surface when someone suggests I should be giving everything I have to my work. But now to the point I was actually going to make…I think one of the issues with workaholics is that they place a lot or even most/all of their self worth in their work/ work performance. That is certainly the way my stepdad was. He was absolutely miserable when he had time off and made sure everybody else was miserable too. I’m now in med school (so now I kind of have to be a workaholic to some degree just to get by, but there are ways to keep the balance) and I couldn’t stand surgery for similar reasons. If you were putting in less than 12 hours a day, then you were seriously slacking off, and the norm was more like 16 a day. I would literally get home with only six-seven hours before I had to get up the next morning every day, and I was expected to also be studying in whatever free time I could scrape together, which usually meant getting less sleep everynight, and dedicating every day off to serious study. But I’m ranting again. My point is that many of these surgeons would be in the hospital everyday, for rediculous hours. One family commented that one doctor never seemed to leave the hospital because they would see him at five in the morning to talk about their family member and then would be talking with him at midnight the following night about the emergency surgery that had to be done, and then the next day at noon for an update. I could almost be sure that if I was in the hospital, so was he somewhere. (and it’s NOT like he HAS TO BE THERE OR THE PATIENT WILL DIE. The system in the hospital is set up so there is always someone who can take care of the emergencies when you aren’t there. Health care is never dependent on one person except in rare cases) My point is that, sure he may like surgery, but to allow something that you may even like to consume your life to that degree says that you are hiding from something else that you probably really need to deal with. I mean, this guy had a family. I doubt his kids really knew him at all. That is sad and unhealthy. I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to say that many people who are workaholics would benifit greatly from some counseling and therapy. They are driven to work that hard by something, and it isn’t a strong work ethic. More than likely, it is the only way they can feel okay as a person.

  19. I just wanted to mention… it’s a completely different scenario when you are the founder / owner of your own company.

    Yeah, I work 15 hour days sometimes.

    But 7-8 of those hours might be on *my own projects/startup* and thus do not feel like work.

    But yes, the plan is, once the checks start rolling in, to take a balanced work/life approach.

  20. Fez: Yeah, I know, when the business is your own baby, you tend to work more. It also tends to be a lot of fun :o)

    There is also this deep-set expectation that to succeed with a startup, means having to work that much. Well, I tried it the other way: In the startup I co-founded, everybody worked 40 hours a week including us founders.

    Here’s an experiment you might consider: Try working 40 hours a week for, say, 4 weeks. If it turns out not to work at all, you can always abort the experiment. If you try it, pay particular attention to 3 things:
    1) How much less work are you getting done. You may be cutting your work time in half, but find that you get more than half as much work done.

    2) The quality of your work. Are you having more or fewer good ideas? Are you relating better or worse to people around you? Is it easier or harder to maintain an overview of your business?

    3) How are you feeling? Are you noticing any differences in how you feel about work and life in general? Are people around you noticing a difference?

    What if you could work less, and get more done? It seems illogical, but that is what many people are finding – even company founders.

  21. Pingback: No Parking
  22. Note that all the successful leaders disagree with you. I agree with you, but I am not a successful leader. So, who is right, us or the successful leaders?

  23. I once had a boss who told me, “I used to work 9am to 9pm, and my wife was not happy. So I started working at 7am, but I still find myself leaving at 9pm. No matter how early I come in, I leave at the same time.”

    But for me, I NEVER want to be one of those people who gets up from their desk at 4:58pm and is out the door at 5:00pm sharp. I detest those people. There are times when I am working on something, and get up to ask someone a question, and they’re gone for the day. I look at my watch and it’s 4:30pm!!! Those people lose my respect instantly.

    I’m not saying work 12 hours a day, but if you could your minutes down so that you leave at exactly 7.25 hours on the spot each and every day, you are not even giving your work 100%.

  24. I agree Scott. That whole “DING, it’s 5 I’m outta here and I can’t help you ’till tomorrow” attitude ain’t good either. If you’re in the middle of something, stay a little longer and get it done.

    I say go ahead and work 80 hours one week if work requires it, then take at week of some time. That kind of a crunch situation can even be a lot of fun. But when 80 h/wk becomes the norm it reduces many people’s productivity and may eventually make them stressed and sick.

  25. Phaedrus…you hiring? ;o)

    In response to ridiculous, one needs to realize that a big part about liking one’s job is not having one’s job take over their entire life.

    “Im not saying work 12 hours a day, but if you could your minutes down so that you leave at exactly 7.25 hours on the spot each and every day, you are not even giving your work 100%.”

    No, it just means your ass isn’t sitting in a chair 8 hours a day. The whole point of all of this is that most of the time, one can give the same 100% effort in less ‘seat time’. We live in a society that judges your output not by your actual output, but by the amount of busy work you can futz through will sitting in your chair.

  26. Pingback: Tdenham
  27. Pingback: Great comments
  28. Pingback: My favorites
  29. The cult of overwork in America is an inefficient and counterproductive method of approaching work. A company I worked for required that I work more than the standard 40 hour week. Not just suggested, required. My boss would show up at 7 am and work until 9 pm. My dept was expected to show up no later than 8 am and leave no earlier than 7 pm. There are many reasons why I don’t like these kind of set schedules, especially when they go beyond what you’re being paid to do. Aside from being stressful and reducing your personal time, it is probably the most inefficient method out there to get productive work out of your employees. I was so amused at watching so-called executives and key project managers who bemoaned how much work they had to do essentially stretch what for everyone else would be maybe 35-50 hours a week tops worth of work into 60-70 hour work weeks. Much of this time was taken up in meetings they didn’t have to attend, excessively long phone calls, long lunches with clients, and even browsing the internet to make up for the additional hour or two. I think it was really all an act in an effort to make it look to the boss like they were really working. I think the cult of overwork will only end when managers recognize that there is a difference b/w employees working 70 hours a week and employees being at work for 70 hours a week. If you’ve got no more work to do and you’re not working, leave, instead of trying to impress the boss by sitting there for a couple of hours more.

  30. I used to work for General Electric, from the mid-80’s through mid-90’s, right in the middle of Jack Welch’s reign. During that time, it was very clear that you were to work until the job was done (of course, that was REALLY stressed to Exempt employees, who would get no or very limited overtime pay – “casual OT” for Exempt employees during a normal week was 10 hours – twice that during month end).

    The official mantra was “fewer but better jobs”, which we were to achieve by implementing efficiencies in our jobs. Realistically, it became “fewer but bigger jobs”. Though efficiencies were achieved, head counts would drop, and so you’d be left with more work to do.

    I read Welch’s autobiography (I forget the title). In it, he describes a golf outing with some random GE employees where one employee brags to Welch that “(he) worked 70 hours per week for (Welch’s) company.” Welch told him he was foolish, and should spend time concentrating on making the job more efficient, and he should work 40 hours per week and get a life. The irony is that the “fewer but better/bigger jobs” left NO time to find better ways to do things – there was simply too much to do.

    One day my boss, having heard “you’re not getting my pet project done” one too many times, spent a department meeting going over the list of things his group had scheduled to do. According to that schedule, if every person in his department worked 90 hours per week, we would finish the tasks his boss required of us. (Obviously, my boss’ boss had not read that chapter in Welch’s book…) Jack was great for shareholders, but employees took the brunt of his grand plans.

    I left GE to work for a software company that supplied financial software to GE. Doing the same job I did at GE, I was soon making 2x my GE salary (working less hours), and reaching 3x the salary. Oh, and my ex-coworkers? They were “downsized”, with their jobs going to Mexico and India. They definitely got the “fewer jobs” thing right.

  31. Now that I have my own small business, I reminisce about the times I felt like I had to stay in the office (at full-time job) until everyone else was leaving. As if to support them? I literally felt as if I had to stay there, even if I didn’t have anything to do. Unfortunately, my job was often dependent upon someone else’s ability to complete copy for the Website or make a decision to go ahead and code something.

    I think there’s a residual culture from the dot com era that says it’s OK to come in late, but you have to stay late. This is only compounded by the troubled economy with fear of layoffs. Even if you come in early, with hopes of leaving early… it never works to your advantage. So, people come in later– and stay later, get less done early, end up making everyone stay late. Nothing really gets done well this way, and people just end up getting burned out. And really, the only solid work that gets done occurs during those last few-hours when people just want to finish and go home.

  32. There’s a really good book on this subject by John De Graaf from timeday.org The book is called, “Take Back Your Time”

    I believe timeday.org is doing more for familes than Focus On The Family ever thought of. “Spending time with your family is a family value.”

    Amapola
    alternativeconservative.com

  33. ‘And Im sure they know what theyre doing and have structured their life according to what works best for them.’

    With that one sentence, you just validated what executives do.

    Have a think about that :)

  34. I fully expected one of them to go I get up at 4 in the morning, half an hour before I go to bed, and work a 27-hour day, only stopping for a 3-minute lunch break in which two assistants stuff food down my throat like a foie-gras goose.

    — I laughed at this part, knowing this is the grim truth for many of the people here at the office. More grim is the fact that most of them are from the higher-ups, thus setting an unhealthy standard of working hours here.

    As for some of us, we simply find ourselved driven to a corner, living lives of quiet desperation (as Henry David Thoreau puts it) by this complicated and fast pace they’ve set.

    For instance, it’s already 1am here and I’m still at the office, working my butt off. And this is the Nth time in a series of all-nighters. I want out.

  35. I found your site, because I am angry – I am one of those people who overperforms and have set a precedent that works to my disadvantage. There are times I love what I do, but things never get better. I told my boss once that I feel exploited, but that was swept under the rug. He said he couldn’t klone me. Plus the only way we can get our work done is if we work a lot of overtime. In a recnet review, my boss rated me as outstanding in work quality and quantity, but then mentioned that he’d like me to have more patience with people. It would be easier I do that if I were not exhausted all of the time. And I think it would be easier to be deal with some of the people who collect a paycheck and do nothing if I had a life besides work. I have to figure out how to get off this hamster wheel. And I will do it – I am there.

  36. I love the cartoon at the top. That is how it feels where I am employed. The truth of the matter is I LOVE what I do. I LOVE what the organization’s mission and vision is. I do not love the culture I work in. We have people at the top who are workaholics. They arive early…. stay late…. put their families and significant others at risk all for work. They put off Dr. appointments… children’s soccer games… etc. Not only that… they tend to lord it over everyone else. “Gee…. I had to be here 15 hours because……” The result of this is that people that do not want to do this have begun to so they too can be in on the inner circle. I have worked there for 20 years. I am very well received however… I will not stupe to conforming to this method of working myself into exhaustion. I meet all of my deadlines… I exceed all expectations… I smile and am happy at work and lately there has been some resentment by co-workers. This wave of work aholic behavior comes and goes. I noticed it is worse during bad economic times. The bad part is that we should all be fresh and ready to pounce on the situations at hand not exhausted and constantly angry at everyone. I used to be very happy at work and now I find myself searching want ads and listening in at meetings as to what positions are becoming available. I really do not want to leave my job and I have tried to talk to my supervisor who is the Ex. Director. Whenever I speak up to her things improve but others do not speak up and get mad. It is an ugly cycle and it makes me sad. My line of work is one that should be considered one of the happiest in town however for me lately it is not. I am getting particularly tired because I have been working with the same people for most of those 20 years and finally I have about had it. Anyhow…. that is my little vent. It is unhealthy to be a work aholic… to be supervised by them… to have a work culture that encourages such behavior. The proof is in the pudding…. These people put in ENORMOUS hours and hold countless meetings yet decisions almost never get made. How about working smarter as opposed to harder.

  37. I couldnt agree more with this. Those who seriously overwork themselves are, in the long run, going to be less productive, and actually get less done in the 60-odd hours they’re working than they would in the 40 hours they could be doing, whilst being happier and well rested at the same time.

  38. You know, I can agree with some of what this article is saying, and it can be especially true for employees of a corporation. However for me I’m stuck in the middle. As a subcontractor who enjoys the type of work im involved in, I also feel a lot of pressure to work extra hours, not only to please my clients, but to also impress my peers, to ‘keep up’ as it were with others in the shop that put in the hours. I used to be able to put in 14-16 hour days and be happy with that, proud of my work ethic and dedication. Nowdays I have a very hard time putting in an 8 hour day and most of my day is completely wasted. (I only get paid billable hours) So recently I’ve been working 4-6 hour days while being at work for 8. It kills my motivation which is in the ground anyway. It angers me to no end when i look over to see my peer happily putting in 12 hours at work. Its second nature for him to stay past 6 to tie up loose ends. I want that back. I WANT to put in those 12+ hour days. I WANT to be proud of what I got accomplished and right now I’m ashamed of my work ethic. When I leave work at 5 or 6 I feel guilty and ashamed of myself. I feel lazy and useless. Especially since when I get home I just plop onto the computer or tv. I completely waste my evenings despite being home early. WTF is wrong with me.

  39. Some people actually enjoy spending most of their time at work. I don’t have a family nor any time consuming hobbies, so I can spend as much time on my work as is necessary. I make 10-12 hour days and are completely comfortable with that. It does, however, make my colleagues a bit nervous…

  40. I work in retail, and it’s true, some enjoy spending all their time at work, and that’s fine. If you want to spend 60 hours at work, that’s your prerogative. What I don’t like is the judgmental attitudes surrounding work hours– the unsaid expectation that if you don’t work 9-9, you’re a failure, or letting your team down. No, working 12 hours, five days in a row makes me miserable AND a failure– a failure at my job. I work to live, I don’t live to work, as the old saying goes and, when I first started and was eager to fit in, I bent over backwards keeping a similar schedule. I felt ashamed that my ‘meager’ 12 hour day contribution wasn’t enough, and I felt in ‘awe’ of the woman that habitually came in at 6am and leaving at 9pm. Then one day, about a year into the job, I remember wondering why I had gotten the flu yet AGAIN, (the fourth time in two months!) when it hit me. I was working way too much and almost killing myself. Life is going to get me in the end. I don’t need my job to speed up that process.

    Now I work less, work better, and win more accolades, get more sales, and get sick less, all because I don’t conform to the cult of overwork. I’m in the minority, but I’m happy. And that lady? Well, she still works her heart out, and complains the whole way.

    As for ‘leaving on time’ being disrespectful, I don’t agree. Going ‘above and beyond’ sometimes, does you no favors. Going by my example, a lot of times people treat us like dirt at closing time in our store. Often, they expect us to keep the store open just for them to continue browsing! If a person is nice, and I’m assisting them prior to closing, I’ll happily finish my task before leaving them, especially if they are aware they are inconveniencing us (i.e. our store has closed/is closing and they are hurrying) and not treating us like, ‘well I want service even beyond closing time because I’m always right and I’ll take my time because of it’. If a person is disrespectful, I do them no favors. You wouldn’t reward your child for bad behavior, so why is it acceptable in the work place? We have set hours for a reason. Inconvenience works both ways. It’s just as inconvenient to be asked an elaborate question that requires 15 minutes of your time when you have 5 minutes of work left, as it is to not receive that service when you’re needing it.

    I’m digressing, but case in point, a lady breezed in just today, wanting to do an item return at 5:37. Our store closes at 5:30. It was more than just being a bit late, or coming in at 5:25. She came in 7 minutes past closing (and all our registers were closed) and got huffy because it was such an inconvenience for her to come ‘so far’ and have us be closed. We always close at 5:30. We’ve closed at that time for over 10 years. It’s nothing new. Had she explained her situation, instead of getting belligerent as soon as walking in, ‘are you closed? I need to return this! *thrust bag in my face*’ we may have been more willing to help her out. Meanwhile, her presence inconvenienced three employees in our area who were waiting for her to leave so we could give the all clear and continue with our duties. It baffles me to this day, why doing the wrong thing (and giving in to these people who are belligerent/doing the wrong thing) reaps results. To give in sets the wrong example. It basically is saying, ‘kick up a big enough tantrum, and you get your way.’ If you complain, you have a license to treat people like dirt. And it promotes that behavior, instead of rewarding kindness and contentious customers– we always give free gifts to those who are foaming at the mouth, and never to the ones who are inconvenienced but are really nice about it. Personally, those are the ones we should be keeping loyal.

    Even SuperNanny knows: Tantrums shouldn’t be rewarded. Kinda makes you think, doesn’t it?

  41. I think a lot of people of our generation want short cuts.

    The fact of the matter is, there are NO SHORT CUTS!

    Stop wishing leaders would take it easier so you can take it easier. Work harder!

    Best,

    Sam
    Yakezie Lifestyle

  42. I have tested such theories repeatedly at different jobs with an interesting conclusion: the manager is more interested in the time employees punch out than anything else.

    Coming in early only seems to count as a plus if you leave late. Starting work at 7 a.m. doesn’t help your cause if you leave “early” at 5 p.m. Even leaving as soon as 5:30 is pushing your luck.

    It still looks bad to be seen leaving at or before 5, even when all of the work is done and I am quite literally turning a screw for the last hour trying to look busy.

    Instead, I can come in at 8:30 a.m. and leave at 5:45 p.m. -working less hours- with minimal friction.

    Still, the managers will look at the total number of hours worked in a pay period to determine who to give a bonus and who to give the ax.

    So my hierarchy would be as follows, in order of importance:

    –MOST IMPORTANT–
    Time punched out.
    Total number of hours worked in a pay period.
    Time punched in.
    What you are actually accomplishing during your working time.
    –LEAST IMPORTANT–

    Source: personal experience. Someday it might be worth a PhD.

  43. I think this article is spot on. If someone wants to work like a mule that’s their business but don’t look down on others who have a life outside of work.

    And for those who put their job above their family? Why bother having a family in the first place? What happens when you are regarded as too old and useless to work? At my job, the workaholics who retire usually drop dead a few years later. They have nothing to live for anymore. How pathetic. I’m not interested in their “work ethic” nor do they make me feel lazy or bad for putting in a normal day’s work. I just look at them and shake my head. 60 hours a week? 70 – 90 hours a week? Nah, you can keep it.

  44. Very True… I think there are some who spoil it for all. If they are working 18 hrs a day, shooting out mails every hour, just to suck upto their bosses, or because of the insecurities that they might have, and then expecting everyone to follow their routine, .. I have seen many such bosses in my career, who take pride in working this way. And have even converted their subordinates also to owls!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>