5 reasons why you shouldn't work too hard

Sep 26th, 2019 (updated on Sep 27th, 2019) Tisho Iliev
Working hard
Working hard (photo by Pingz Man, CC BY)

"Hard work pays off" is true most of the times, but some people think working too hard pays off even better. Multiple researches suggest this might not be true. Do we really achieve more when working more than expected in our daily job? Here are 5 reasons suggesting it's the other way around. At the end of the article I'll give a tip what to do if you are a workaholic and just can't stop working.

1. Work-life balance

Balance (photo by Leio McLaren)

When you choose to spend most of your time working, you simply switch to "no life" mode. This means fewer fun activities, less time with your friends and family, no hobbies and almost no social life.

As much as you love your job, you should make a clear distinction between your work and life.

Hillary Clinton
Don't confuse having a career with having a life.
– Hillary Clinton, politician (photo by Facebook)

If you think overtime would get you to satisfaction and happiness, you better think twice. Chances are it will make you more miserable. Also, you will become a stagnant one-dimensional person with no imagination. Doing other activities and learning new skills which are not related to work will actually boost your creativity and make you more productive at your job.

So, tomorrow leave your office at 5 and take care of yourself!

2. Working smart lead to better results

Working smart
Working smart (photo by jannoon028 / Freepik)

Working smart is more important than working hard. Why? Because results are what will get you to the next level, not the number of hours you put into your craft. Working smart means to always pick the tasks that will make you a better version of yourself. Next time when you are at your office and your boss allocates the work, you should definitely have an opinion! Do not get the boring, repetitive tasks! Do not get the easiest, less risky clients! Always get the hardest tasks and don't worry, there will be no competition for them, you just have to ask.

Accomplishing such tasks will make you better, earn your more respect and make you stand out from your coworkers. Always get the toughest clients, you will learn and gain so much more.

Charbel Tadros
You cannot reach success only by working hard, you also need to be working smart.
– Charbel M. Tadros, author (photo by Facebook)

Remember, completing 1 challenging task is more valuable than completing 1000 easy tasks. Working smart instead of hard means thinking of quality instead of quantity.

3. Your productivity is actually decreased

8-hour day banner, Melbourne, 1856
8-hour day banner, Melbourne, 1856 (photo by Wikipedia)

Before 1800 the working day could range between 10 and 16 hours and people used to work for 6 days a week. This means some folks worked for up to 100 hours a week. 150 years later, most of the world have already adopted the 40-hour work week standard. According to Ford Motor Company working less improved productivity and increased their profit by 100% in 2 years.

City, University of London, a public research university, conducted a research to find how the work effort and discretion influence the well-being and career progress of the employees. A data from nearly 52,000 European employees was used. "Work effort" is described by the researchers as "overtime work" and "work intensity". "Discretion" means the freedom an employee has to decide how and when to do their job. The research concluded that greater work effort leads to reduced well-being and inferior career-related outcomes. Putting more effort into your job proves to be even more harmful than doing overtime work. Researchers suggested discretion might help the senior staff to deal with overtime and the junior staff - with work intensity.

Henry Ford
Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more.
– Henry Ford, business magnate (photo by Library of Congress)

It all goes to say spending more time and effort than expected in the office won't make you more productive. It won't help you get promoted faster, either.

3. You give bad signals to your managers

Signal (photo by Carlos Alberto Gómez Iñiguez)

Working too hard and staying late might give the wrong impression to your supervisors.

Your boss might think the tasks he gave you are too hard for you and you can't finish them on time. Think of how much this could differ than the hard-working devoted employee you think you portray yourself as.

If you constantly deliver more than expected and finish 30% tasks more than needed, you set wrong expectations. Next month, your boss will assign you 30% more work. And guess what, you won't be paid 30% more! You'll end up being underappreciated.

Working like a mad man separates you from the pack but you have to make sure your work is perceived the right way.

5. You destroy your health

Pills (photo by NIAID, CC BY)

Working "like hell" could destroy your health and turn your life literally to hell. Stress could increase the risk of getting various diseases - heart disease, asthma, diabetes, depression and many more.

In their 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11), the World Health Organization (WHO) added the term burnout. WHO clarified burnout is not classified as a medical condition, it as an occupational phenomenon. The description is as follows - "Burn-out is a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed". WHO reports three signs of burnout - lack of energy, distance and negativity towards your job and decreased productivity. If you experience all of these, it's time for a change!

A research by Nottingham Trent University and Yale University suggests a reason for the workaholism could be an underlying psychiatric disorder. According to the research workers classified as workaholics scored higher on all the psychiatric symptoms of ADHD (Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), OCD (Obsessive-compulsive disorder), anxiety and depression compared to the non-workaholics.

Cecilie Schou Andreassen
Taking work to the extreme may be a sign of deeper psychological or emotional issues. Whether this reflects overlapping genetic vulnerabilities, disorders leading to workaholism or, conversely, workaholism causing such disorders, remain uncertain.
– Cecilie Schou Andreassen , Professor, Clinical Psychology (photo by Thor Brødreskift)

What should you do if you just can't stop working?

Elon Musk
Elon Musk (photo by Web Summit, CC BY)

If you enjoy your work a lot and can't stop overdoing it for whatever reason, perhaps you should work for yourself.

In 2018, UK workers put in more than $40 billion worth of unpaid overtime. That's estimated to be 2 billion unpaid hours. Do you want to be a part of this statistic? Do you enjoy working for free?

If you like working like hell, you should definitely pursue entrepreneurship. Because building a business requires that. Try to channelize your energy into something that's your own. Otherwise you are just giving your time for free. That's what you do.

You don't have to be Elon Musk or have a ground-breaking idea to start your own thing. You could just start a YouTube channel or a website telling the people about your hobby or something that you are passionate about. You might be able to monetize it, eventually. Either way, your time won't be wasted.

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Tisho Iliev
Tisho Iliev
Tisho Iliev
An IT specialist with 8+ years of experience in developing software solutions. I have been working in multiple US - based corporations. How the working environment impacts the employees has always been fascinating to me. The working conditions, underestimated by many employers, contribute to the health and productivity of the employees and always affect the outcome of a project in a positive or negative way.
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