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How much work is too much?

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How much work is too much?

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I wrote last week about some research from social software company Jive into work life balance.  It found that 91% of those surveyed regularly took work home with them, with 37% of Americans doing 10 hours or more during their personal time.

Some new research from Kansas State University highlights the negative impact this has on our mental and physical wellbeing.

“We looked at the association between workaholism and physical and mental well-being,” said researcher Sarah Asebedo, a doctoral student at Kansas State University. “We found workaholics – defined by those working more than 50 hours per week – were more likely to have reduced physical well-being, measured by skipped meals. Also, we found that workaholism was associated with reduced mental well-being as measured by a self-reported depression score.”

To try and get to the bottom of why people felt the need to work such long hours, the researchers used Gary Becker’s Theory of Time Allocation.

“This theory suggests that the more money you make, the more likely you are to work more,”Asebedo said. “It looks at the cost of time as if it were a market good. If you are not engaged in work-related activities, then there is a cost to the alternative way in which time is spent. Even if you understand the negative consequences to workaholism, you may still be likely to continue working because the cost of not doing so becomes greater.”

It becomes a vicious circle, with those who work longer tending to prosper, thus earning more, which in turn makes it harder for them to not put in even more hours.

The problem of course, as with many addictions, is understanding the problem you face.  As such, it seems more likely that the best person to nip workaholism in the bud is that employees manager.  A major facet of social business is to help destroy the culture of presenteeism, but it also needs to ensure that people maintain a healthy work-life balance.

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