How working too hard can ruin your career

Posted on Oct 16th, 2014 | Productivity

Working long hours is a sure-fire way to get ahead in your career.

A glance towards Wall Street where, for decades, junior bankers have slogged it out in the rat race, forgoing their lives for a slice of that sweet success pie, proves that if you really want something, you’ve got to put the hours in. Right?

Not in this decade.

A study, carried out at the University of Padova in Italy last year, has shown workaholism to be detrimental to employee’s health, family life and performance in the office. The study found that compulsive over-working leads to exhaustion, which affects focus and performance and often leads to depression and loss of cognitive function.

The efforts employees put into work must be followed by periods of physical and mental rest to ensure optimum health and functionality, otherwise their work will inevitably suffer and they will actually become worse at their job. Workaholism is also associated with increased sickness absences – lack of rest inevitably affects the immune system.

Don’t believe us? Let’s examine the facts

1. It’s dangerous for your health

The Trades Union Congress (TUC) identifies overworking – working more than 48 hours a week – as one of the greatest hazards at work. Adults working more than 11 hours a day were found to have more than 67% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those working eight hours.

2. It kills productivity

Fifty percent of employees are less productive as a result of stress. A recent survey has found that 68% of safety reps state stress as being the biggest concern in the workplace. This is particularly prevalent in jobs with high responsibility, such as central government and healthcare, where the expectation is often placed on working long hours.

3. Increased chance of alcoholism

People who work long hours (50-plus hours a week) are more likely to develop an alcohol-abuse problem.

Luckily, more and more businesses are taking note and adjusting their policies accordingly. Binge working is no longer in-vogue and increasingly more companies offer flexible working as part of their package – work/life balance is gaining greater focus.

However, the expectation to work long hours is still prevalent among large companies, especially in major business hubs such as London and New York. Here it is not uncommon for workers to feel obliged to stay longer in order to prove their dedication, and a long-bred culture of presenteeism remains a large part of business function. Working long days doesn’t just demonstrate commitment to a company, it reinforces it and this is a long-standing thought process that is difficult to break. In Japan they even have a word for so-called salarymen, those working for large corporations – Karōshi literally translates to “death from overwork.”

For the business culture to shift to one of healthy work-life balance, employers and their employees must remember that workaholism – now grouped together with alcoholism as a dangerous modern addiction – leads to inefficient and ineffective workers.

Businesses must implement a strict, no working out of hours policy, to ensure all their employees feel it is ok to take a break, without fear of undermining their position.

Three businesses that have got the work/life balance down:

SAS Institute

This analytics software company received a work-life balance score of 4.5 out of 5 from Business Insider for its flexible working culture, relaxed environment and challenging, stimulating work. It also offers a 35 hour working week and great benefits including innovation training and company bonding activities.


Colgate topped the Forbes and company review site 2014 list of companies with great work-life balance for the second year in a row. The company offers perks such as nearby child care centres, emergency in-home care for dependents, tuition assistance, health, legal and financial counselling services and relocation assistance.


Ah, Google. The posterchild of the modern working world. The tech giant is known for its offices stocked with complimentary snacks, company shuttles, and ergonomically designed “huddle rooms”. The company also offers on-site healthcare, travel assistance, extended off time and financial help following childbirth and first rate staff training and development.

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Written by Sophie Turton

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