Working Long Hours Is Killing Us


Our parents emphasized the importance of hard work, telling us nothing good could be achieved without its practice. Our teachers went on to do the same. So did everyone else. “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic;” they said. “It takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

While there is validity in working to make certain goals come to life, work has become an overwhelmingly dominant part of human existence; it’s so dominant, in fact, that it leaves no time for other aspects required to live happily and healthily.

The United States is top amongst the culprit nations, as the average workweek is 46.7 hours (or 49 hours for salaried workers). That means, on a typical day, someone who marches off at 8a.m. (and has a lunch break) won’t leave work until around 6p.m. That’s the entire day. Dinner, more work from home and off to bed – that’s all this schedule leaves time for.

The average vacation time given to United States salaried employees is only about ten days, or two workweeks. With fifty-two weeks in each year, people are essentially working all the time.

In many of these cases, the duties performed have nothing to do with personal dreams. It’s a matter of bringing home a paycheck. Work to pay the bills. Work to afford that house. Work to afford this. Work to afford that. It’s all about acquiring things; it has nothing to do with personal aspirations or achieving happiness.

In fact, only 13 percent of people worldwide enjoyed going to work as of 2013. And yet, we continue to do what we do. We continue to choose fat wallets over daily contentment. Not only that, but we teach our children that a “good job” is one that – regardless of personal satisfaction – provides hefty wages. They will undoubtedly grow up to share the same, skewed mentality.

We’re blind to the true meaning of life. We’re blind to what really matters, what really holds value when all is said and done. We’re choosing to work, work, work and become stressed, stressed, stressed (and praise those who are doing the same) in order to buy that car or that hot tub or that cool, new phone. We are flat out damning our health and wellness in order to afford more material possessions.

Could we put a price on health – mental or physical? These two components, the parts that make up who we are, are negatively impacted as we overwork. They crumble and fall apart. And yet, we seem to believe our health is worth less than the neat, unnecessary gadgets we can hold in our palms.

What’s the price of time spent with loved ones? This aspect of life, the one that elders have long told us to cherish, to prioritize, has fallen by the wayside, replaced with overtime and a few extra bucks at the end of the week.

What’s the price of adequate rest? Humans need to recharge in order to be happy and healthy. And yet…

We go to work and spend our weeks behind our desks – bogged down by unhappiness. We flip the middle finger to the relaxing, the balanced, those who are “taking it easy.” They’re not doing their duty. “Lazy” is what we dub those who choose not to participate in the 50-hour workweek trend. Those who merely cover their financial bases and live simply – they’re the ones going about it wrong. Right?

We need to take a step back and consider the paradox in working long hours. It’s a practice – no, a lifestyle – that shouldn’t be applauded. Don’t we see that, in the end, we leave no time for the stuff we work so hard to afford? We end up too tired to appreciate our lovely home, our contemporary top-of-the-line furniture, our humongous television. More importantly, we leave no time for loved ones.

But we have a choice.

We can opt for cheaper models, fewer toys, fewer belongings overall. We needn’t replace our cars, our wardrobes, our furnishings simply because we tire of the old. We may want to, but we don’t need to. We’re fuelled by the desire to have the best, nicest things. By the time we’ve worked enough to afford it all, we’re burnt out.

We can do away with daily misery and work less; we can seek lower paying jobs that we actually find enjoyable. We could fill our time with good company, with sufficient rest, with necessary recharging of body and mind.

If we would only alter our work patterns, or deeper yet, if we would stop our worship of material possessions (realizing they should not take priority over love, rest and health), we’d be healthier and happier. Contrary to what people seem to believe, working a million hours for a million dollars but leaving no time to spend it and cutting out anyone we might spend it with– that’s not happy or healthy.