A friend recently confided in me about the stress of her job and long work hours. She had working weekends for months in addition to her regular work week when her company mandated everyone work extended hours during the week too. What’s more frustrating she explained, was how everyone was told to work longer hours although not everyone was behind on their work. Her management announced it would be short term.
She expressed to me in frustration, “when does this become the new standard work day salary employees are held to? How am I to supposed to function as a person and have a life working these hours?” Unfortunately, I know all too well what’s she talking about. As an IT consultant for over 10 years, I’ve had to work irrational hours (what some would call crazy) during the ebbs and flows of projects.
Disordered Work-Life Balance Is A Real Problem In Corporate America
On one particular project, I worked until midnight Monday through Wednesday. We started the workday at 9 a.m. because everyone was too exhausted from being at the office until the early hours of the morning to crawl out of bed to arrive at a reasonable time. Then by the time everyone got to the office, got their breakfast at the cafeteria and settled in, it was time for lunch and by then it was afternoon. No one started any real work until 1 p.m. and it was a snail pace too. Everyone knew they had to be there until midnight regardless of how hard they worked so they took their time completing tasks.
I remember when I joined the project being baffled by this. It surprised me how everyone accepted this as “normal” working hours. They simply gave up on their happiness and their life. No one ever had a smile on their face. No one was ever happy. Furthermore, there was no business justification for this schedule whatsoever. In fact, it was pushed by the partner on the project to work “as many hours as possible” so he could bill the client more.
Disordered Work-Life Balance Has Become The Norm
Thankfully, my contract on the project was only a few months and when they asked me to renew I politely said “no thank you.” During my time on the project, I had to load up on sugar and caffeine just to stay awake. On the weekends, all I did was sleep. I never felt so sick, stressed and zombie-like in my entire life. By the end of it, I was a mess and it was all due to a disordered work-life balance. I’d be lying if I said this was an extraordinary circumstance and the only time in my career it has ever happened. Over 90% of my work throughout the last five years has been like this.
Repercussions Of Disordered Work-Life Balance
When you work these kind of hours, you have no time to eat a real sit-down relaxing meal, see your kids, do something active, detox your brain or God forbid sleep. What I want to know is how much more productivity do companies think they’re really getting from their employees by mandating these hours? Let’s not even talk about the impact it has on the quality of work. Personally, my brain shuts down at 5 p.m. and I’m in bed by 8 p.m. every night. Staying late for me simply means you have a warm body at a desk getting no work done because my brain is no longer functioning. Is that worth it? Companies don’t care because it’s all about the perception of someone being at the desk not about what’s actually getting done.
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Corporations Are Taking More Risk With Disordered Work
What corporations fail to acknowledge is the increased risk disordered working brings to the organization. Employee burnout is a real issue and it’s worsened since the economic downturn due to downsizing. Employees are now expected to do the job of what used to be multiple people and now are working longer hours too. What if an employee falls asleep on the way to or from work? What if an employee is so tired they make a mistake that costs the company customers or sales? What if an employee gets physically hurt at work because they’re not alert enough to take the appropriate safety precautions? These are real liabilities that companies overlook or choose not to acknowledge.
Increased Stress Results Yields Increased Health Problems
Our bodies are not built for working long hours over extended periods of time. Stress impacts the body within just a few days and manifests itself in different ways. Depending on the person, stress can result in insomnia, increased hunger, intense sugar cravings, obesity, anxiety, depression, GI issues, autoimmune diseases, chronic illness and puts the individual at increased risk for heart disease & stroke.
Corporations Are Contributing To The Rising Cost Of Health Care
With the rising cost of health care, corporations are directly contributing to these rising costs by demanding more and more of their employees than they should be and inevitably, making their employees sick. Who is paying for these costs? Employees are. While corporations are assuming a portion of that financial burden ultimately, it directly impacts the employee by leaving less in the pot for annual raises and promotions. So not only are those high costs passed onto employees, but employees are also the ones getting sick and left to deal with the long-term effects. Is it worth it?
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Corporate America Made Me Sick
If you’ve read about my cycle of injuries and estrogen battle, then you know I was diagnosed with HA earlier this year. HA is a result of too much stress. Since then, I’ve been diagnosed with stage three kidney failure and two autoimmune diseases which I have not yet written about. I am convinced without a doubt that the intense pressures of my job, long working hours and disordered work-life balance over many years is to blame for my health issues. My body finally just had enough. I’m only 37. What will my body look like in 10, 15, 20 years if I continue this way?
Corporate America made me sick and while it was my choice to work for those companies, it was never my choice to work those hours, give up my personal life or sacrifice my health. People can say find a slower paced job is the answer, but that’s easier said than done and frankly, I’ve been told more than a dozen times “you’re over qualified.”
Whatever happened to the days of getting home in time to make dinner, sit down to eat with the family and watch nightly tv? Those days are long gone and and the only time we have to ourselves is the weekend which is spent catching up from the week or preparing in advance for the week ahead. No one has time for themselves to live their life outside of work.
Our minds, bodies and emotions are not built for this madness. They need balance and rest. People need to be active, people need exercise, people need to eat real whole food, people need to mentally detox and most importantly, people need rest. Where are the boundaries and when is it crossing the line and risking your health?
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Is Corporate America making you sick? Tell me how do you achieve work-life balance?
Lots of Health, Food & Love,
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Linking up today with Amanada for Thinking Out Loud