New technology such as smartphones, tablets, and social media have enabled workaholism to become an even bigger issue in recent years. It’s not just bankers and stockbrokers who are working longer hours; it’s teachers, journalists, lawyers, and other professionals.
“Work harder! Work longer hours! Work until you drop!”
These types of messages represent the drumbeat of post-outbreak society. You see it in the co-workers you don’t see at night at the bar having a drink with you, and in the self-improvement, articles outlining how to work more and play less. It’s become the new normal to work past the point where we should head home and finish up in the early morning or on weekends.
In the classic novel The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious at work, but as it turns out, working smarter is more important than working harder or longer.
“I’m exhausted now,” said no person ever during an actual zombie apocalypse. You’re in one right now — and it’s called the digital age. In the past year, companies have adopted a 24/7 work schedule, an awkward amalgamation of 9-to-5 and deadlines that bleed into each other until our work weeks are longer than ever.
Are you burned out from your job? You’re not alone. Research shows that almost 80% of Americans work an average of 46 hours or more a week. A study looking at overwork and health found that regularly working 50 hours or more can double your risk of stroke, diabetes, depression, etc, and death.
Overworked And Proud Of It
Overwork is a hot topic. People from all over the world are aware of it, but not many can articulate what leads to burnout and why people fall prey to it.
Christina Maslach and Susan Jackson have developed the most commonly accepted definition of burnout. They define burnout as a syndrome that includes three essential components:
- Emotional exhaustion
- A diminished sense of personal accomplishment.
We’ve all seen the clichés of the billionaire CEOs who regularly work over 100 hours a week and seem to have limitless energy as they make connections, business deals and celebrate their successes with a glass of champagne or two. These people seem to be operating at a different level than everyone else—a level that requires a multi-million dollar salary to achieve.
We all want to make that kind of money—the kind of money to buy a jet. We aspire for that because we have been taught for so long that it is the ultimate goal: personal freedom and wealth. However, let me ask you this, do you really need to own a jet?
You might as well be suffering from “FOMO” like everybody else in this working culture. It’s a term seen or heard everywhere these days, especially in business and media. The acronym stands for “fear of missing out,” a phenomenon that insinuates that you should work as hard as humanly possible to make sure you don’t miss out on something bigger and better happening somewhere else. FOMO is the fear that drives people to create fake calendars with more events than a year has days — but it also drives them to feel like they are wasting life if they are not working at 100% capacity.
All in all, we live in a world where the commitment level measures one’s passion for a project to it. It’s where waking up at odd hours, eating cereal at your desk, and skipping vacations are all considered acceptable and normal.
Hours are the new currency
Now, there’s a particular performative aspect to this. We’re encouraged to play into this idea of the long-working overachiever and show it off, proving to the world how extraordinary our lives and jobs are. We don’t have time to hang out with friends or go on holiday because we’re too busy working hard (and spending our precious wealth on the necessary accouterments to show that off).
Overall, we need to be more thoughtful about managing our time and workflow if we want to keep doing what we love. It’s not just about no longer working 60-hour weeks. It’s also about taking better care of yourself, your friends, family, and any other relationships that might be in danger of being undervalued because you’re overworking yourself again.
Therefore, if your true passion is to become an overachiever in the office, be my guest. However, if you’re just miserable at work for the sake of being more successful, I think it’s time you took a step back and re-evaluated whether or not this is really what you want out of life.
I say: why also not show the world how well you’re living? Why not have memories of great times to look back upon?