Sunday, March 23, 2008

Are You A Workaholic?

Have you ever met a workaholic?

In the 1960's Japan, a term was coined:

According to Wikipedia, Karōshi (過労死, karōshi: which quite literally means "Death From Overwork", is occupational sudden death. The major medical causes of karōshi deaths are heart attack and stroke due to stress.

Does karōshi (death from overwork) sound fun to you?

Yeah, not to me, either. Yet, I've met many people who are definitely victims of overwork, and quite possibly on their way to a karōshi.

Just yesterday, I met a manager of an aerospace company who shared with me that he oversees a division of 30 direct reports, and 300 more underneath that team. He bragged that "I decide when I can come and go. I decide where I travel." Okay, great. But, guess what? He also confided, "I took only 6 vacation days in the past three years." In my opinion, this fine gentleman is suffering from a karōshi addiction to work.

According to a Wikipedia article:
Usually, Japan's rise from the devastation of World War II to economic prominence in the post-war decades has been regarded as the trigger for what has been called a new epidemic. It was recognized that employees cannot work for twelve or more hours a day, six or seven days a week, year after year, without suffering physically as well as mentally. A recent measurement found that a Japanese worker has approximately two hours overtime a day on average. In almost all cases, the overtime is unpaid. The recent international expansion of Japanese multinationals has also led to an export of the Karōshi culture to countries such as China, Korea and Taiwan.
While this problem may be lesser-known in America, nevertheless it is not unknown in other countries, as well. In the Netherlands, workers are known to overwork. Check this out: according to WebMD's Sid Kirchheimer, people have actually developed "leisure illness," a phenomenon that occurs from getting ill while trying (albeit unsuccessfully) to relax on vacation. The problem? They're so used to overwork that they simply cannot relax. Crazy, huh?
In the United States, the average worker takes 12 vacation days a year. If you ask me, that's nowhere near enough time to balance a person's life. We need at least three weeks - probably four weeks at minimum - to re-balance our lives from our work schedules.

Yet, employers routinely dole-out only two weeks vacation. It's disgusting. Workers need to request MORE vacation and point out how much their health suffers when they don't get to take a break. It's our life - it is up to us to stand-up and speak-out!

In Europe, they seem to have a better handle on work-life-balance. Europeans average 4 to 8 weeks of vacation a year. Clearly, they have a better understanding of the important things in life: experiences with friends and family. The only way to have these quality experiences is to take VACATIONS and TAKE TIME for these important people. Not only that, but it is critical to take a break just to recharge our batteries and refresh our soul.
(Please note: I need to fix this chart - Stress is on the X axis and performance on the Y-axis, but otherwise, everything is correct here.) The point is that our productivity drops dramatically when we are fatigued.

Are you a workaholic?
Are you spending enough time with your loved ones?
Another way to ask this is: are you taking enough vacation and time for life?

If you're a workaholic, you may be heading for a stroke, heart-attack, or stroke. In any event, you're probably more stressed-out and more difficult to be around, because you're not balancing your life.

Do something about this before it is too late. If your loved ones have been expressing worry about how much you work, take a break. If you notice that you're getting more stressed-out than you used to, why not build in a few more vacations each year and take more weekends away from the Blackberry, computer, and cell phone?

Sometimes, the answer isn't to take Prozac but rather to take a vacation.
Remember: in the end, we do not take our company with us, our paychecks do not go with us, nor does the debt, nor the toys, when we pass away. In the end, the only thing that matters most is the quality time we spend with those we love the most. Most often, those people are our friends and family members.

In the military, there are obvious results from stress and fatigue. Officers frequently report that "exhausted men offer little more worth than dead men" in many cases. I've seen this first hand. When, in a strategy game simulation playing "Rome: Total War" I noticed a huge difference in performance in my troops when they were stressed. For example, in examining the difference between a "fresh" unit, a "warmed-up" unit, a "tired" unit, and "exhausted" unit, my "fresh" units far outperformed equally equipped, talented, staffed, and trained "exhausted" units. In addition, units placed in unfair position (downhill vs. an uphill force), units "surprised" by an enemy, and units in fear of a superior force (such as infantry vs. cavalry or cavalry vs. elephants) also fared poorly. When mismatched, it is obvious that troops will suffer undue stress, and that stress will cause the unit to break, flee, and become routed by the enemy.

How are we any different in our work life?

If you are a workaholic, I suggest you seek out professional assistance from a doctor, career therapist, or other professional. Also, why not seek out a "life coach" to help you rebalance your life before you die of karōshi? Ultimately, your life will be far more balanced and you ought to experience higher happiness.

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