As I’m writing this, I’m sitting at work, watching over an empty gym, wondering if I brought enough food to last me for an 11-hour work day. That’s 3 hours extra than my normal 8-hour day. 3 extra hours, unpaid, because I’m on salary. Luckily for me, this doesn’t happen often. I had to come in to cover the gym while my boss teaches a class, and I’ll get to leave early a few days next week to make up for my extra time today.
But some people aren’t so lucky. For those that don’t know, the gym I work in is the corporate gym for State Street Bank here in Boston. Before I worked here, I worked in the corporate gym in PWC’s building in the financial district. I’ve heard lots of stories about the crazy schedules people work. I have a lot of friends and family who work in finance or business or accounting. And what I’ve heard scares me.
I know that being overworked is not specific to one type of industry. I feel like it can happen to anyone. At my previous job, I was only a part-time employee (and getting paid like one), but I was doing the work of a full-time employee. Let me share some of these stories I mentioned:
-a client who works 80 hour weeks, sometimes more, logging onto her work computer at home at all hours of the day and night, on the weekends, and on her days off. She’s in her 40s, never been married, still lives at home with her parents. She’ll never get fired because she does the work of two people, but doesn’t get paid as much as two people.
-a friend who would send me snapchats late at night of him still at the office. And then again super early in the morning…”back at the office”…after only sleeping for a few hours
-my own mother, who stays up late writing her patient notes (she’s a physical therapist). I used to wake up to go to work at 3:30am when I lived at home, to find her in the kitchen typing away. I’d ask her if she slept at all, she would usually say something like “oh, for a few hours on the couch…” When I was younger, overworking used to land her in the hospital with a Crohn’s attack.
-another client who told me during our initial evaluation, that he works until 11pm, eats dinner, then works out until 1 or 2am, goes to bed for a few hours, gets up at 7am, and repeat.
-one of my best friends, who is a high school English teacher, spending HOURS grading and writing lesson plans on her weekends and late into the night.
Being overworked, or burning the candle at both ends, as the saying goes, can have serious effects on your health. I’ve already written about sleep deprivation (you can read that article here) and the effects it has. Overworking can have negative effects on your relationships, whether romantic ones or with your family and friends. With the clients we have here, a lot of them work so many extra hours that they struggle to find time to take care of themselves. They don’t make it to the gym, they don’t have time to make healthy food for themselves, and they don’t have time to do things like go to the doctor or the dentist. That’s a problem.
When is work more important than your health?
NEVER. The answer is never.
I understand needing to meet deadlines, and “busy season”, and having a boss who throws a ton of work at you, and feeling the need to get things done and feeling the need to go above and beyond…but somewhere a line needs to be drawn.
Delegate work wherever you can.
Say “no” sometimes. It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to ask for more time.
Ask for help.
Take a break and go for a walk.
Set aside time to workout….I mean ACTUALLY block it out in your calendar so no one schedules meetings or phone calls during your workout time.
Try to get home at a decent hour so you can cook a healthy dinner or eat with your family.
Make plans for Friday night (or any night!) after work. Could be a happy hour or a dinner with friends. And don’t cancel. And don’t go back to work afterwards.
You NEED to take time away from work in order to stay sane and healthy. When I used to work in a huge commercial gym, I was working 10+ hours a day, 7 days a week at first just trying to build up my clientele. This is pretty normal in the fitness industry. And I hated my life. I had no time to do anything fun. Any time I did have off I spent sleeping because I was so exhausted and worn out. I never saw my friends. I barely saw my family. It was horrible.
Now, I feel like I have a pretty good work-life balance. I cherish my weekends. I don’t really like going to the gym on the weekend, since I spend 40 hours a week in one, so I try to get exercise in other ways. I walk around the city, go to the driving range, swim in the ocean, go for hikes. I try to do as many activities as possible and see my friends and have fun! You need fun in your life!
How do you maintain a work-life balance? If you’re reading this and you think “man, one of those stories sounds like me”, I would suggest taking a step back and looking at your schedule. How can you make it better? How can you get more sleep? How can you spend more time doing things you love? How can you make your relationships better?
Take time to enjoy your life. It goes by too quickly!!