To #Work extra hours is becoming the norm – and this change is so subtle and gradual that we hardly notice it.

I would like to tackle this issue (because I believe that being addicted to work is a problem) by creating a fictional character, called Mr. Smith, with a normal (?) life and a normal job.

What would a typical day in Mr. Smith’s life look like? First thing in the morning? Checking emails from work. On his way to work, probably in an unpleasantly crowded train, he starts a to do list – you know, to stay on top of things - in his blackberry. If he is lucky enough to find a seat, he may even open his laptop and work on some spreadsheets. How marvellous.

Once he arrives at his the office, there he works – and this makes sense. Lunch break? It should be an hour, but he only takes 30 minutes. Most of the time, at his desk. After work (he should finish at 6pm, but very often he stays a bit longer because things have be done), he goes home and probably checks his work email a few times. At dinner, he mainly talks about work (understandable: after all, what else has happened during the day?) with family and friends. Exhausted, Mr. Smith eventually goes to bed, and chances are that he finds himself plagued by job-related dreams.

Mr. Smith doesn’t exist in reality, yet his type of lifestyle surely does. The Stackhanovite work ethic, in which work owns your life, is not only reality but also normality nowadays. According to a recent survey conducted by Travelsupermarket, the majority of British workers don’t take all their holiday leave each year. Workaholic Brits have an average of 4.7 holiday days left to take this year, with an incredible one in ten (12 per cent) still having 11 or more days left.

Strangely enough, to take holidays has become a luxury. When asked why they didn't use up their holiday time, 15 per cent said they were too busy at work to take the time off.
Little wonder that most social interactions are about how busy we each are. It seems that the common response to “how are you?” has turned into “busy” – mainly, it is a way of showing a social status: if you are busy, you are cool and important. As much as our Mr Smith complains about feeling stressed and exhausted, he still believes that it is good to accomplish something all the time.

We have created a workaholic society, in which holidays are spurned and it is a badge of honour to kill yourself over a project. Perhaps being so busy is not that wonderful. Perhaps going on holiday (or just spending some time on the sofa) is nothing to be ashamed of. Wouldn’t Mr. Smith’s day be more interesting if he did something else but work? Or, even better, if he was travelling? This doesn’t mean that Mr. Smith should live a life of idleness - that would be boring too. Simply, work should never be a totalizing experience because this can be extremely dangerous. In Japan, there is even a name for death by overwork, karoshi, which is the likely cause of some 1,000 deaths each year.

If the Mr. Smith in us is still not convinced that holidays are important, bear in mind that, as the UK economist at Capital Economists Samuel Tombs said, the cult of over work “can in fact have a negative impact on UK businesses with staff working less productively as they haven't had sufficient time to rest and recuperate."

Simply, and funnily enough, working too hard is not even productive.