Is working long hours a bad thing?

Is there anything wrong with wanting to put in long hours at the office?

After reading a fantastic post on by a blogger named NorthSider who says he happily puts in the 60-plus hours required of an investment banker, it made me think about the work side of the work life balance equation. 

The blogger wrote: 

I had gone into the job with the preexisting belief that my work/life balanced sucked, and I should be upset/sad/angry about it. I chatted with my coworkers about it and occasionally mentioned it to my friends. I was the picture of a perfect post-undergrad IB analyst: disgruntled and passionately pursuing greener pastures.

Until, one week, I started to realize that I was neither dissatisfied about my work nor my life (whether that means I have a "work/life balance", I have no idea)…

And it wasn't long before I started to realize that my friends in more "traditional" jobs complained just as often about working too much as my friends in IB.

Since reading the post, I've been thinking about the long hours some professionals happily put into their work. And, I realized that regardless of what job you are in, there's always someone at a different stage of life than you who is willing to put in more work hours than you or gains more enjoyment from it. As this blogger pointed out: if you're in a job and you're working tons of hours and you enjoy it, you may be happier than someone working 40 hours a week.

In this work life balance discussion, have we shifted the focus too much away from finding satisfaction in work? Do we frown too easily on people who want to spending the bulk of their waking hours working?

Recently I was at a concert and heard a young singer, Austin Mahone. To me, he looked like a younger version of Justin Bieber, only I enjoyed his music more. Just as Justin is taking a hiatus from music, there's a young up and comer right behind him who is putting in the hours to get his name and music out there. 

Work life balance is about spending our time in ways that bring us satisfaction. If someone is at a time in life when they want to put in hours to build a business or advance in their careers or because they enjoy what they do, the rest of us shouldn't feel threatened by that. How many times have you muttered…"so and so has no life?" If someone wants to tip the work life balance scale in the direction of work, shouldn't we be okay with that?

Of course, we know that an extreme commitment to work (70 hour weeks) over a lifetime may not be sustainable, particularly when job-related stress levels are at an all time high.  At some point, you would want to find ways to create free time to decompress.

As one commenter noted: working 40 hours per week doesn't guarantee happiness. Nor does working 80 hours per week guarantee unhappiness. So true!

In this work life balance discussion, the key is making choices about how we spend our time and being satisfied with our choices. If someone else is okay with putting in long hours at work, even energized by it, that's their choice. Let's stop being judgment when we talk work life balance and respect the trade-offs all of us make to achieve our definition of what it means to us. 



The Work/Life Balancing Act

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