About stress: are we working too hard?

tumblr_mfsvpxR8DE1s0dqi6o1_500_largeWe’ve all heard the word stress and we’ve all felt it, some more often than others. However, it has become more and more normal to see people putting in extra work hours, skipping lunch and drinking way too much caffeine.

I am no exception. Stress and I are good friends and lately we’ve been hanging out a lot. I often work late and worry about work during the weekend but I ask: when did we start accepting that putting all this pressure on ourselves is OK?

I mean, we all know that stress is a negative thing. No one wants to be stressed but in spite of this, we work ourselves to exhaustion.

One of the reasons we work so much is because society has created this concept that success is measured by the work and energy you put into something rather than the actual output.  Due to this, we build crazy schedules for ourselves and add task after task to our to-do lists because we believe that more work = success. It is for this very reason that it is more likely that someone that puts in the extra hours will be noticed at work, even though another employe that clocks out at 5pm does the same amount of work.

The worst about all this is that we think that it’s OK to sacrifice ourselves now and the benefits (happiness, promotion, recognition, etc.) will come later. We actually think it’s admirable to run only on caffeine because we’re working towards some kind of benefit that will come out of working this much. When did this happen? Did I miss the communication that said that happiness can wait?

According to this article, a third of people in the UK think about work from the minute they wake up and another third only stop thinking about work last thing at night. In fact, 57% of people have seen their personal life affected because of putting in too many hours at work.

So why are we working for so many hours when countries like Sweden have started to shift to a 6 hour work day? While they are shortening the work day in order to increase productivity, we are making it longer.

“I think the 8-hour work day is not as effective as one would think. To stay focused on a specific work task for 8 hours is a huge challenge. In order to cope, we mix in things and pauses to make the work day more endurable. At the same time, we are having it hard to manage our private life outside of work,” Linus Feldt, CEO of Stockholm-based app developer Filimundus AB

“My impression now is that it is easier to focus more intensely on the work that needs to be done and you have the stamina to do it and still have the energy left when leaving the office,” Mr Feldt added.

The aim of these shorter workdays is to get more done in a shorter period of time in order for employees to still have energy to do things after work. Although there’s a lot of arguments against the Swedish transition (please bear in mind only a few companies have adopted this), I would love to see how it turns out.

Finally I just wanted to say that I do think there’s a lot of value in hard work but we should also learn to listen to our bodies and what it’s telling us. Happiness should not be an end product but part of the journey (that is so cliche but you get me!) so stop putting all that pressure on yourselves to achieve happiness in the future – insert happiness in your daily pursuit of success.

Lots of love,

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