3 Ways to Beat the Overwork Culture
For decades, American workers have embraced a culture of overwork in our nation’s workplaces. Also referred to as the hustle culture or workaholism, this cult-like mentality has convinced many employees to equate successful careers with things like:
- Working long hours
- Taking calls or answering emails off the clock
- Completing extra work during evenings and weekends
Although the negative repercussions of overwork culture have gained more attention in recent years, many Americans still feel the need to accept poor health and unpaid hours to impress a boss, ascend up the ladder, or even keep their job to begin with.
Embracing the Overwork Cult: Why Do We Do It?
Why do so many people take pride in working themselves into the ground? Considering the reality of the many health hazards (such as poor diet, heart issues, and high blood pressure) and diminished quality of life (such as failed marriages, rocky friendships, and forgotten hobbies), it’s certainly a valid question.
Many professionals don’t view workaholism as a trend, but a lifestyle. At some point, Americans decided to glamorize the rat race until it was no longer something that we broodily tolerate. Instead, it’s something thrilling, appealing, rewarding, and awe-inspiring—even when we pay the price in mental, physical, and emotional exhaustion.
Unfortunately, an appalling effect of glamorizing overwork is its impact on the average joes who still view the rat race as what it truly is: a brutal and constant struggle for money and power. Most of the time, those involved don’t care if they have to step on others’ backs to get what they personally desire.
And if you’re not clawing your way to the top whilst choking on your blood, sweat, and tears? Well, you’re not doing enough. These are the people who risk sacrificing fair pay, deserved promotions, or even the job itself—all thanks to societal pressures that reward those who make their work the air they breathe 24/7. A 2021 study revealed that employees invest an average of 9.2 hours of unpaid overtime each week. Many employees don’t realize they’re being taken advantage of by large companies that view them as another compliant and willing cog in the machine.
Overwork culture has enabled companies to put profits over people for decades. Worst of all, it isn’t uncommon for these companies to be perceived as praiseworthy and desirable. It’s important for American workers to learn how to kick unhealthy habits in the workplace and take back control of your health, career, and life.
3 Ways to (Healthily) Quit the Hustle
Although it might be easy to feel like you’re the only one who isn’t on an insatiable quest for power, recognition, and money, take heart that there are ways to combat negative effects of the overwork culture—without sacrificing your job, financial stability, or sanity. More employees are coming to terms with the harm that workaholism can inflict, such as:
- Skipping meals and poor nutrition
- Dependency on caffeine, alcohol, or drugs
- Suffering or severed relationships
- Increased risk of stroke and heart attack
- Mental health risks (such as suicidal thoughts, depression, panic attacks, anxiety, and more)
It’s important to know the signs and consequences of overwork before it’s too late. While it can be challenging to stand apart from overly eager colleagues (you know the type—first to arrive, last to leave, possibly sleeping in the conference room), it’s entirely possible to overcome the overwork stigmas by setting healthy boundaries. Consider the following 3 tips to combat the overwork culture and prioritize your wellbeing.
#1: Redefine the game of success.
There’s no rule that demands you to accept society’s definition of success, although it can be easy to forget that in the hustle-and-bustle professional world. It’s important to keep in mind that you retain the power to define what success looks like.
For some, success might entail a simple clock-in, clock-out job that allows you to fulfill true passions outside the office. For others, it might be investing 100% of your effort into starting and growing your business, and forging your identity as a self-made entrepreneur. Maybe you prefer a quiet, low-maintenance career that grants you peace and joy to raise a family.
You’ve likely overheard someone say, “When (x) happens, that’s when you know you’ve made it.” Regardless of what others think, you can fill in that blank with whichever words you’d like: getting promoted to your dream position, creating freedom to spend time with family, clocking out before 6 o’clock, moving upstairs to the big office, or anything else that makes you feel successful. Don’t pigeonhole yourself into success defined by the overwork culture. Go forge it for yourself.
#2. Say no without overexplaining or making excuses.
This isn’t elementary school. There’s no need to forge a doctor’s note so you can ditch class to play with friends. There’s no parent hovering over you demanding that you explain yourself. (To be fair, it might feel that way if you work for someone who micromanages or breathes down your neck throughout the workday.)
While this might come as a shock, you are allowed to set healthy boundaries as an adult in the workplace. There’s nothing wrong with prioritizing your mental, emotional, and physical health. Self-care isn’t greedy; it’s crucial.
The next time your boss asks you to stay late or asks why you didn’t answer an email over the weekend, be brave enough to reply assertively, confidently, and professionally. There’s no need to be flustered or guilty. The sooner you set healthy boundaries, the sooner your boss will take the hint, and hopefully begin treating you with the respect you deserve—even if it means standing your ground for a while.
Regardless of western culture’s normalization of workaholism, keep in mind that overwork and burnout are not normal. You’re allowed to say no, and rest assured that there are federal and state laws in place to protect your employee rights in the event that your employer decides to push back.
#3. Get enough sleep.
Many view the occasional all-nighter as a necessary (and relatively harmless) evil—one easily solved by popping a caffeine pill or an extra espresso shot in your coffee on the way into work. However, poor sleep can derail your life.
While this might seem extreme, the truth is that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to fatal consequences (such as heart failure, diabetes, stroke, and memory loss). Fatigue is reported as the cause of 100,000 car accidents in the U.S. each year, and more common among young people under 25. Other symptoms include poor immune health, low sex drive, and poor performance at work—something that many workaholics are desperate to excel at.
If you want to get ahead in your career, your best chance is to respect your body’s needs by getting adequate sleep. The CDC estimates that 1 in 3 adults don’t get adequate sleep, and recommend getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night for healthy functioning.
Our Firm Is Here to Protect Employees
If you feel disadvantaged, abused, or retaliated against for setting healthy workplace boundaries, you deserve better. No one deserves to work in a high-pressure environment that doesn’t value their efforts or respect their human needs.
Every American worker deserves fair compensation and respect in the workplace. Don’t be one of many employees who routinely work 9.2 hours of unpaid overtime each week. Take action now by seeking legal representation from a skilled employment law attorney. Our firm can advocate on your behalf in order to earn the compensation you rightfully deserve.
At Donati Law, we focus on bettering the lives of each and every client, one client at a time. Call (901) 209-5500 to schedule your consultation today.