Career Advice Jul 20 2011

Sunlight a Low Priority for Some Job Seekers

By kelly eggers

Sunlight is overrated.

At least that's the attitude of many FINS readers, who said that to get ahead they'd be willing to give up daylight during the week.

Asked if they'd accept their dream job if starting and quitting times meant they wouldn't see daylight except on the weekends, 61% of 645 respondents said "yes" in FINS.com's informal online question forum, Sign or Decline. Anyone working this much, except in winter, is probably putting in more than a 40-hour week.

While the effects of overworking are no secret -- studies show that extended work schedules have effects ranging from an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, chronic infections and ulcers to depression, poor relationships with their children, a greater chance of divorce and little-to-no sex life -- that doesn't mean people aren't doing it anyway.

A 2007 study from the Center for Work-Life Policy, a New York-based research and advocacy group, found that 1.7 million Americans hold "extreme jobs," characterized by 60-plus-hour weeks in unpredictable, high-pressure environments.

Further, a 2010 study from the Center for American Progress found that 38% of men and 14% of women at the professional-managerial level regularly work at least 50 hours a week, and those who don't are barred from the so-called fast-track. According to the study, many professionals now view the traditional 40-hour workweek as "part-time" employment, and that working it would be "career suicide."

Louis Barajas, a financial planner and author of Overworked, Overwhelmed and Underpaid, says that due to the weak economy and sluggish job market, people have transitioned to survival mode. "In this economy, there's a fear that if [the employed] don't work 60 hours, they'll lose their job and won't be able to find another," he says. "It pulls you into a mindset of needing to do more and more at work."

Barajas says that among the upper echelon, it boils down to maintaining a certain lifestyle. "People get caught up in protecting their ego, status, income, title, cars, country club, neighborhood," he says, supporting the Center for Work-Life Policy's findings that high achievers are "hooked" on the rush of success and the rewards associated with it.

Barajas says that the key to working less than 45 hours a week and making a high-end salary is to build a team to which you can delegate. Efficient "people do the work that it is important for them to be doing," he explains, "instead of doing everything."



Fighting the Burnout

For those who can't seem to remove their nose from the grindstone, there are some ways to lessen the physical and mental impact of working excess overtime.

Karen Sumberg, senior vice president at the Center for Work-Life Policy, suggests making some simple adjustments to your routine, like ensuring you get out of the office for lunch every day. "Leaving the office is incredibly helpful," she says.

Daily exercise can also help, says Sumberg. One team of workers that she encountered was constantly working long hours and so organized a weekly "boot camp" workout that served as both a team-building activity and an opportunity to focus on health, she says.

"The big thing is policing your BlackBerry or iPhone or whatever you use to get your messages when you're not at work," says Sumberg. If you want to have dinner at home with your family, tell your team you won't be checking e-mail between six and eight in the evening, she says, and be diligent about it. Or set ground rules among your colleagues, like no one is to e-mail past eight at night or on the weekends, she says, "unless it's absolutely urgent, and you have defined what 'urgent' means."

Regardless, as much as people might enjoy working, being on constant overdrive will eventually lead to burnout. "Set limits, and be clear about what those limits are," says Sumberg. "You have to give yourself permission to disconnect."



What Would You Do?

Answer the question and see how you match up with the rest of the FINS community.

You've just been offered your dream job, but... your hours mean that you won't see daylight except on the weekends.

Sign ...or... Decline

Write to Kelly Eggers

Sign or Decline is a series of questions on FINS.com that ask what you would do for your dream job. Since its launch late last year, over 100,000 answers have been received and compiled in our database. Participate in Sign or Decline here.



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