It’s been reported that one in four companies have created policies in recent years instructing employees that they are not to read or answer work e-mails after normal work hours. But such policies are the exceptions to the rule, in which companies today are happy to see employees handling work tasks just before bedtime, over weekends, during vacations, and more.
What’s more, there are downsides—for employee and employer alike—to living and breathing work 24/7. Here, some noteworthy takeaways from several recent noteworthy articles questioning modern-day work culture:
Forget about being perfect. In a Q&A with the Washington Post, Brené Brown, a University of Houston professor and the author of the new book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, talks about how people use the idea of being “crazy busy” as a sort of armor—a justification for not bothering to pause, evaluate what’s going on in your life, and reconsider decisions regarding lifestyle, work, family, and perhaps whether it’s really necessary to be “crazy busy.”
Also, she reveals that, for the most part, highly successful people understand that perfectionism is not healthy and ultimately gets in the way of progress:
Perfectionism is not motivated internally. Perfectionism is about what people will think. And you do not see effective leaders in corporations sitting on an email for three hours to make sure it’s worded just perfectly. You don’t. They have work to get done.
Focus on productivity, not face time. Robert C. Pozen, senior lecturer at the Harvard Business School and author of Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours, also advises against pursuing perfectionism on the job in a New York Times column. For instance, when setting out to write a long memo, some people “insist on perfecting each sentence before moving to the next one.” Instead, Pozen suggests that it’s better to write fast, then revise and polish as necessary—and a lot of polish is probably not necessary:
In general, don’t waste your time creating A-plus work when B-plus is good enough. Use the extra time to create A-plus work where it matters most.
Pozen’s overarching point is that results, not merely hours worked, are what’s really important, and it would be wise and rewarding for managers and workers alike to focus on productivity over face time:
I KNOW that a change in focus from hours to results may be a challenge in some organizations. But your boss is likely to be receptive if you politely raise the question of productivity and show you’re willing to be held accountable for results, rather than hours worked. You may also be able to do more work from home, if that’s what you prefer.
Workaholism is not a virtue—it’s a problem. There aren’t many addictions one would readily admit to during a job interview. So it seems rather odd, The Fix notes, that it’s commonplace in society to brag about being a workaholic. In the short run, overworking is likely to boost your career, and help whatever company or organization you work for. Down the line, however, there’s often a price to be paid for workaholism:
Researchers in New Zealand have found that people who work at least 50 hours a week are up to three times more likely to face alcohol problems. Earlier this month, the American Journal of Epidemiology reported on a global study showing that over-workers are between 40 and 80 percent more likely to suffer heart disease than others. The lead researcher of that study had previously found that middle-aged people working more than 55 hours a week tend to be disproportionately slow-witted, and to be more at risk for dementia.
Balance is the key. Working too much is bad for your health, but guess what else is equally bad if not worse? The direct opposite of working too much: A study released last year revealed that being unemployed increases a person’s chance of premature death by 63%.