Image Source: MSN.com
By Faye Couros | @CourosFaye
Work culture is a beast that can overwhelm people with difficult demands, long hours, and the pressure to succeed.
Business editor of Business Insider Chris Pash said in a 2018 article that research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half found “45 per cent of Australian workers feel their workload and responsibilities are greater in proportion to their salaries”.
This year, the World Health Organization said burnout is an “occupational phenomenon” and while it is not a medical issue, it may lead to people seeking mental care.
It appears that working to the brink of exhaustion has become cool, and the word ‘hustle’ has become part of the cultural zeitgeist; everyone now has a ‘side hustle’ or works so hard and long that they are ‘hustling’.
However, this mindset can be toxic and is somewhat unrealistic.
While it is important to do good work, there is no luxury to be found in overworking.
But is putting in more work than expected actually a vital part of success?
Helanna Marra is a Project Manager for Greaton Developments and typically works 32 hours over four days each week.
Before working at Greaton, Ms Marra experienced long and inconsistent work hours.
“For other companies there was most definitely long hours put in on a daily basis,” she said.
While Ms Marra said she does not believe working long hours indicates someone is a better or harder worker, in her experience, strong commitment and consistently exceeding expectations do indicate a strong work ethic.
“I have never viewed longer working hours as being a hard worker or being a more valuable employee. I bring it back to my work ethics and commitment,” Ms Marra said.
“My work life has always been about putting in 110 per cent… had I refused or become complacent my career would look very different today.”
Ms Marra said she remembers experiencing burnout on a project and having to slow down her commitment in order to recover.
“I had no choice; my body was telling me that I needed to slow down. I was fortunate to work with a company that recognised the amount of work I was putting in,” she said.
In today’s work culture, everything moves quickly and there is no time to pause.
“I think we live in a fast-paced world where we need everything yesterday; we don’t stop… however, I don’t think burn out is at all luxurious,” Ms Marra said.
Ms Marra isn’t the only one who feels this pressure.
*Cameron is employed by an accounting firm that provides external business audits and he works around 37.5 hours each week.
However, in the busy season from July to November, Cameron said he ends up working longer because of due dates in the ‘hard close’ period.
“During the busy season hours can get very lengthy… and to ensure you don’t fall behind on the new job, you generally complete this work outside normal hours,” he said.
Cameron said he believes putting in extra time to appear more valuable to the company can help in gaining a promotion.
“To be a more valuable employee is by completing all your work and assisting others on time.
“This is achieved through working extra hours and when one person starts doing this the others follow to ensure they don’t get left behind with promotions.”
However, not all companies believe overworking is an attribute one should aspire to.
Richard Little is the owner of RCP, a national independent project management organisation .
Mr Little said he expects his employees, depending on their seniority, to work 40-50 hours per week, although this varies depending on projects and deadlines.
However, Mr Little said he ranks his employees on the quality of work, not the hours they put in, and if burnout occurs “significant support is provided”.
“There are some professional service firms who frown on staff leaving before their bosses, in my opinion this is ridiculous… and creates a poor culture within organisations,” he said.
“Construction can be stressful, but we find that through discussions with staff and well-managed resourcing we have limited issues with burnout.”
If you or someone you know is experiencing the effects of burnout, you can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.
*Names of people and places have been changed for privacy reasons