Overworking in America

In some place I’ve worked, it is a badge of honor to share how many hours you worked in a week or a month. People competed to see who could log the most hours in the office while others talked about how late they were on email the night before or how early they got to work in the morning.

This really isn’t something to be proud of. I remember my first job out of college where I had a boss who said, “The only people who know you work late is the night janitor or the security guard you see on the way out.” I also had a boss once who used to count the cars in the parking lot at 6 pm or 6 am and then tell me that we had a morale problem since people weren’t working late or coming in early. My response was always, “Is the work getting done?” If the answer is yes, then why do people have to spend more time in the office—especially since most people are on email long after they leave the office. Technology frees most of us from being tied to a specific place to do our work.

Do you remember the Seinfeld episode where George Costanza left his car at the office one night when he was working for the New York Yankees? The next day, he heard George Steinbrenner telling someone, “That George Costanza is a real go-getter. He was here when I left last night and he was already here when I came in this morning.” No, George wasn’t there—his car was in the parking lot. So George Costanza being George, decided to start sleeping in his office so Mr. Steinbrenner would continue to think he was a great employee!

According to a recent article in the Washington Post by Christopher Ingraham titled, When Working Longer Hours Doesn’t Add up, he says that “half of full-time workers report working 41 or more hours per week and nearly a fifth say that number ticks up to 60 or more.” He says this isn’t healthy—not for the worker nor for his/her family relationships. The Centers for Disease Control reports that “overtime was associated with poorer perceived general health, increased injury rates, more illnesses, or increased mortality.”

Ingraham goes on to say that most Americans say that family takes priority over work—yet many of us are willing to make personal sacrifices for work including going to work when we’re sick; missing out on personal experiences due to long hours or no vacation; and working different shifts from a spouse because they couldn’t find child care.

So the next time you brag about how many hours you worked or hear someone else doing it, think about your health, your relationships, and your life and go home. Spend some time relaxing with family or friends and get enough sleep that you don’t make silly mistakes! Find ways to be as productive as you can be in a reasonable day/night at work and as always, do your best and if your boss still wants you at work all the time just because, maybe it’s not the right job for you.


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