To Work extra hoursis becoming the norm – and this change is so subtle and gradual that we hardlynotice it.

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

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

Once he arrivesat his the office, there he works – and thismakes 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 veryoften he stays a bit longer because things have be done), he goes home andprobably checks his work email a few times. At dinner, he mainly talks aboutwork (understandable: after all, what else has happened during the day?) withfamily and friends. Exhausted, Mr. Smith eventually goes to bed, and chancesare that he finds himself plagued by job-related dreams.

Mr. Smithdoesn’t exist in reality, yet his type of lifestyle surely does. The Stackhanovitework ethic, in which work owns your life, is not only reality but also normalitynowadays. According to a recent survey conducted by Travelsupermarket, themajority of British workers don’t take all their holiday leave each year. WorkaholicBrits have an average of 4.7 holidaydays left to take this year, with an incredible one in ten (12 per cent) stillhaving 11 or more days left.

Strangelyenough, to take holidays has become a luxury. When asked why they didn't use up their holiday time, 15 percent said they were too busy at work to take the time off.

Little wonder that most social interactions are about how busy we eachare. 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 cooland important. As much as our Mr Smith complains about feeling stressed andexhausted, he still believes that it is good to accomplish something all thetime.

We have createda workaholic society, in which holidays are spurned and it is a badge of honourto 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 tobe ashamed of. Wouldn’t Mr. Smith’s day be more interesting if he did somethingelse 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 totalizingexperience because this can be extremely dangerous. In Japan, there is even aname for death by overwork, karoshi, which is the likely cause of some 1,000 deathseach 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 overwork “can in fact have a negativeimpact on UK businesses with staff working less productively as they haven'thad sufficient time to rest and recuperate."

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

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