On Workaholism

Instead of the 40 hour workweek, somehow we ended up extending back quite a bit beyond those boundaries over the last couple of decades. We’ve become accustomed to working 45, 55, 60 and more hours a week. I even talked with guys who regularly clock in about 80 hours on the job a week.

Even though economic conditions have worsened in the last couple of years, and things are tighter overall, there seems to have been a pervasive cultural message to work as much as we can. I think that that’s changing the last couple of years, with people reconsidering their lives and trying to budget time for things that really matter to them, like family, hobbies, and other life experiences. And younger guys seem to have taken this heart: by seeing their fathers worked tirelessly, more and more guys are trying to find what work allows them to apply their passions, and doesn’t kill them in the process.

But, workaholism still runs rampant in our culture today. Plenty of guys they’re either head in the sand and press ahead robotically to get ahead. Some are so driven by power, success for money that it blinds them to the rest of the rose bushes that they’re zooming past.

Usually, the first thing that materializes as a problem is marital or relationship problems. I hear a lot of women complaining that their guy works too much or too hard, and doesn’t have time for them. They complain about not having regular date nights, not having sex regularly, or just generally feeling unattended to emotionally. Many guys don’t see this until it’s too late, and then come in to count and try to help to patch up what’s already broken beyond repair.

Is this you? I know I’ve been guilty working too hard sometimes, but moderation is definitely the key. Do you find that you’re able to create the kind of work life balance that’s needed to create an optimal life for you?

Here’s four things to think about if you may be a workaholic:

1. You probably aren’t attending to your self, whether it’s diet, exercise, sleep, or your own emotional state. Forging out a life in balance means investing some energy in those areas of your life. Start small, and make commitments each week to modify one or more areas.

2. Get feedback: ask those closest to you how they see. Are you accessible for people when they need you? Do they feel like they’ve “got” you when they need you, or is there experience that you’re always attending to other things?

3. For dads: to consider if you were own father was a workaholic, and if he wasn’t there. Ask yourself if you may be re-creating the same cycle each over again, and if so, take preventative measures to stop it. You wouldn’t want your son or daughter to grow up feeling like you weren’t there, even if that’s how you felt growing up. Would you?

4. Identify why you’re working so hard. Is it for the money? Is it because you’re avoiding something, such as wanting to be home? Are you a perfectionist, or just hungry to climb the ladder at work? Identifying your motivations is really the Ground Zero for making changes to your life, and understanding why you’re doing something is key. It may not be easy, but if you spend enough time meditating on this issue, you may come up with some surprising results.

Plenty of men turn to work to provide a variety of needs: sense of identity, sense of purpose, money, power, prestige, for since a family, whatever. But, like anything else, if you lose moderation and a work/life balance, it may be easy to get lost in work and not be able to find your way out.


About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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One Response to On Workaholism

  1. J. King says:

    This post is pretty old, but the 50+ hour workweek is now almost a business requirement.

    “Today, almost 40 percent of men in professional jobs work 50 or more hours a week, as do almost a quarter of men in middle-income occupations. Individuals in lower-income and less-skilled jobs work fewer hours, but they are more likely to experience frequent changes in shifts, mandatory overtime on short notice, and nonstandard hours. And many low-income workers are forced to work two jobs to get by. When we look at dual-earner couples, the workload becomes even more daunting. As of 2000, the average dual-earner couple worked a combined 82 hours a week, while almost 15 percent of married couples had a joint workweek of 100 hours or more.

    Astonishingly, despite the increased workload of families, and even though 70 percent of American children now live in households where every adult in the home is employed, in the past 20 years the United States has not passed any major federal initiative to help workers accommodate their family and work demands.”


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