Are we Normalizing Overworking?

Imagine this. You get a call in the middle of the night asking you to quickly edit the final draft for the next day’s presentation. Thinking it will only take 5 minutes, you open your laptop and start working on the same. Only, those 5 minutes have turned into an hour and then 2 hours and before you know it, the sun has risen over the horizon and it’s a new day. The next day, you are half asleep through your work and meetings are an absolute blur. Been there, done that. And it’s no big deal, right? But it all points towards the trend of overworking, and is led by the smartphone generation, which considers things happening with the click of a button as a normal occurrence. This leads to the question: Why is overworking so intensely common? Why is sleep deprivation, insomnia and stress so normal in work environments these days, that we hardly seem to notice it? And why is “dude, I’m too busy to even pick calls” a badge of honor and not a call of distress? 

This attitude stems from the idea that when one is given a task, it’s ONLY going to take a minute and therefore, its better do it NOW than keep it pending. But work, as you eventually find out, is never ending. The past one year, amidst a pandemic, with all of us working and staying safe at home has proven this fact. With offices being shut and the usual 9 to 5 regime going for a toss, employees found themselves constantly in front of a computer or laptop screen, and unable to work for the usual 9 to 5 grind. As a result, now when work comes up on weekends or holidays, the normal response is to get on with it, without thinking about the consequences of this behavior on our families or even that we may need a break from this kind of behavior. This leads us to the question: When we do not say “NO”, aren’t we handing off the hypothetical reins to employers to decide to exploit us in any way that they want? 

The most important discussion that overworking exhorts is on its effects on one’s mental health. Now, there are theories that suggest procrastinators get the work done or the 3am-ers climb the ladder quicker, but that doesn’t mean it’s right or effective for everyone. Everyone has a way of working and while some can be night owls and achieve their deadlines that way, most of us find it easy to stick to a tight regime of sleep and work. Agreed, that the world doesn’t stop for anyone, but if you don’t stop to catch your breath, you might not even make it to the finish line. In fact, in a recent survey on employee productivity, it was observed that a 4 - day weekday could add to the profits and productivity of a business, because the employers are happy to spend some personal time and come back to work with a renewed enthusiasm and newer ideas. 

From an organizational perspective, the race to the top is a difficult one and one everyone is fighting hard to be a part of. But overworking your colleagues, will only reduce their productivity, loyalty towards their work and respect for the organization. It has to be recognized that employees should be able to maintain a sense of balance, between how much to work and how much they need to work. However, many people often find themselves in situations where they cannot express how overworked they are owing to the fear of losing their jobs or coming off as too lazy. Therefore, it’s important to be that boss who looks into the work hours of their colleagues and asks them to take a break now and then. We keep posting about the importance of mental health on social media, but when it comes to giving personal days off or asking colleagues to take a break or accepting criticism about making colleagues over work, we turn a blind eye. So, let’s do our job as employers to create a healthy work environment in every aspect because let’s be honest, it’s these people that make the company work. 

Much can be said about how overworked people are and how the bare minimum is being done to ensure their sanity, but it’s important we prevent burnout or succumb to work pressure. So, this just may be the right time to take time off work and resume some family time or read a book or cook your favorite dish. Look after yourself, understand why it’s important to stop at one point and if you find that hard to do, create a schedule and stick to it. Work is important, yes, but health will always be the most pristine form of wealth. 

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