Being a workaholic is a badge of honor these days. Sixty-hour weeks and late-night emails are practically a requirement in some industries. But working too much can interfere with your health and happiness, according to a new review from the University of Georgia.
The list of consequences is lengthy: stress, burnout, depression, poor physical health, and work-life conflict.
So where’s the line between healthy dedication and risky overload? If the majority of these warning signs sound familiar, it may be time to slow down, said study author Malissa Clark, Ph.D.
1. You feel guilty while watching the game on Sunday.
Can’t enjoy a non-work activity without feeling anxious and guilty?
“Being constantly on edge will wear you down,” Clark said. “You need mental rest and recovery.”
People who completely disengage from the office when they’re home are happier and more energetic than those who are preoccupied with work, a recent German study finds. Workaholics are stressed and miserable, even on Friday evening, according to the study.
Strike a balance: If you just can’t zone out on the couch, try a more engaging activity that will take your mind off work, Clark said. Your best bet: Playing a competitive sport. Try getting the guys together for a game of pickup ball, Clark suggested. Breaking a sweat may help you cope with stress, and the competition is bound to distract you, she says.
2. You’re not actually accomplishing anything at work.
You’d think that if you work 24/7, you’d get more done than everyone else. But that’s not the case. Research has shown that people who log excessive hours actually accomplish less. It may be that stress and burnout sap your energy and creativity, Clark said. It’s also possible that you’re so addicted to being “busy” that you’re creating busywork for yourself, she said. You may make a project more complicated than it needs to be or spend time on tasks that are unnecessary in the first place.
Strike a balance: Take a hard look at your to-do list, Clark said, and prioritize. Focus on the items that are important and stop wasting your time on anything that’s not truly necessary.
3. Your eyes are starting to crap out.
The final straw that spurs some people to join Workaholics Anonymous is losing their eyesight, says a spokeswoman for the organization. Could your 9-to-5 possibly do that to you? Yep, says Dr. Joshua Dunaief, a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania. Staring at a book, paperwork, or a computer screen at close range for hours on end can make you gradually develop nearsightedness, Dunaief said. The first sign: It becomes hard to see in the distance in low light, like when you’re driving at night, he says.
Strike a balance: Taking periodic breaks from looking at stuff right in front of your face may help prevent or slow the damage to your eyes, Dunaief said. Take a quick walk outside when you can, he says. When you can’t get away from your desk, you can at least look up from your computer screen and focus your eyes on something far away—like your office wall—a couple times every hour, he said. (And don’t forget about The Worst Thing You Can Do to Your Eyes, which results in one million doctor visits each year.)
4. Your family constantly complains about your schedule.
It’s easier to tune out your spouse's complaints about always missing dinner when your paycheck supports the family—but that’s a bad sign, said Bryan Robinson, author of “Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them.”
“You’re forfeiting your role as a husband and dad if you don’t set boundaries between your work and home life,” he warned. “People who devote excessive time to work have a higher divorce rate.”
Strike a balance: Tune into those critiques, Clark said. When you start hearing from multiple people that you’re never around, it’s a strong indication that you’re neglecting your relationships. Set aside time for your family—make a nightly appointment if you have to—before you lose them. (These 30 Ways to Be a Better Husband couldn’t hurt, either.)
5. You’re always the last one to leave the office.
If everyone at your company works 60-hour weeks, then you probably have no choice but to join them. But if you’re the only sucker burning the midnight oil, you’re doing more than what’s expected or necessary, Clark said. You may impress your boss in the short term, but it almost always backfires, said Robinson. Excessive hours are linked to physical illness, including heart disease. That means you’re trading a few extra hours of productivity tonight for a few sick days later.
Strike a balance: Let’s be real. If you’re an accountant, you can’t leave at 5 p.m. during tax season. Set boundaries that are realistic for you, Robinson said. Maybe that means leaving work at 6 p.m., or taking all day Saturday off—including not checking your work email. It might seem impossible at first, says Clark, but you can train yourself to take time off. (Try these 10 Ways to Boost Your Productivity at Work to become an office superstar.)
The original source of Signs You’re Working Too Much can be found on Men’s Health.