I came across a good article at The New Yorker about over working which is a issue that certainly has become more prevalent with the advent of technology that allows people to stay connected to work much more easily. While the article mainly takes a look at it through the financial sector, I think the problems of over working is applicable to many professions. I certainly know the feeling of working more than your standard 40 hours because most of my paid jobs in the last few years have been on political campaigns. The norm is to work between 60-80 and even close to 100 hours of the week. That being the 7 day work week since there rarely is a day off in the world of political campaigns. Going into campaigns you know that is the case and expect those types of hours, but that knowledge does not keep you from some times having those days where you are just dragging a bit. One quote I wanted to pull out of the article that talks about the problems of overworking:
The perplexing thing about the cult of overwork is that, as we’ve known for a while, long hours diminish both productivity and quality. Among industrial workers, overtime raises the rate of mistakes and safety mishaps; likewise, for knowledge workers fatigue and sleep-deprivation make it hard to perform at a high cognitive level. As Solomon put it, past a certain point overworked people become “less efficient and less effective.” And the effects are cumulative. The bankers Michel studied started to break down in their fourth year on the job. They suffered from depression, anxiety, and immune-system problems, and performance reviews showed that their creativity and judgment declined.
via James Surowiecki: The Costs of Working Too Much : The New Yorker.
I can very much understand how that could happen to people who have worked such long hours for a sustained period of time over multiple years. Being able to find the right work-life balance is important I think for every one so that you can keep your mental and physical health at a good level. What that balance is for each person I am sure is a bit different but important to find. This second quote from the article I also found interesting:
When new regulations limited medical residents’ working hours to eighty a week, many doctors complained of declining standards and mollycoddling, and said that it would have a disastrous effect on training, even though residents in Europe work many fewer hours, without harming the quality of medical care. “I went through it, so you should” is a difficult impulse to resist.
The comparison between European and American work hours is not totally new to me, but still interesting when I come across good examples that illustrate it. I also certainly understand the impulse of if “I went through it you should too.” I think it is a bit natural to have people go through what you had to go through, the feeling of that type of working conditions is a rite of passage or similar feelings.
The issue of overworking certainly is a subject that needs to be discussed and I thought I would share my experience of over working related to the jobs I have had. The whole article is well worth a read and is not real long, so check it out.
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