How do you know you're working too hard? We all have jobs to do, and often the duties are demanding. But where exactly do you need to draw the line? Having a strong work ethic is one thing — being unable to switch off is very much another.
If you work pretty much non-stop and can’t even contemplate a day off, you may be a workaholic. Putting in the extra hours might generate results initially, but it won't be long before you've ground yourself down. And fatigued, exhausted employees are little use to their organizations.
By taking note of these eight warning signs, you should be able to keep from working too hard and stop shy of becoming a workaholic.
1. You're first to arrive and last to leave
Are you the first person to arrive at the office in the morning? This isn't in itself a bad thing — professionals often find they are most productive at the start of the day, particularly when there are fewer distractions in a quiet workplace. But if you're also the one switching off the lights at night, then there may be a problem. There's only so long you can burn the midnight oil before it starts to have an impact on your performance levels. Putting in a standard shift in top gear is always a better option than working 12 hours straight in a tired malaise.
2. You have no hobbies or interests
When was the last time you took part in some sort of activity you enjoy outside of work? Some accountants spend every waking hour performing employment duties — or when they're not actually working, they're thinking about it. This leaves little time for anything else, whether at home or socially with friends. The downside of this is that your social circle slowly evaporates, leaving you with just colleagues and clients on your contact list.
3. You're constantly stressed
Stress in the workplace is common in this profession, and it's not always a bad thing. It ensures professionals are motivated to complete projects and meet important deadlines. But if you find yourself in a constant state of worry — even when you're not at work — this can be problematic. Sometimes workaholics find they are stressed because they aren't at work. They're essentially suffering withdrawal symptoms on weekends. This isn't good for your short- or long-term health.
4. You never take a lunch break
If you find you've never got the time to take a proper lunch break, ask yourself: Is this a voluntary or involuntary decision? If your organization can't spare you half an hour to sit and eat your sandwich, then it needs to think about recruiting additional workers to add capacity. Accountants need to set aside time every day for breaks and make sure they take them. It's as much about giving your brain a rest as anything else. This ensures you're ready to fire on all cylinders in the afternoon.
Next step? Find out how to take time off and unplug for the sake of your career.
5. You check your emails incessantly
There's nothing wrong with a regular check of your inbox while you're at work. It's important to keep on top of your emails. But once you head home for the evening, it's a different matter. You're paid to work during the day, not 24-7. So unless it's an absolutely urgent email, you shouldn't be spending your evening responding — or sending messages of your own. Depending on the nature of your accounting or finance job, you might have emails coming in throughout the evening. If you pick up your phone or tablet every time it buzzes, you'll never put the thing down.
6. You get impatient with everyone else
It could be the employee who leaves early every Friday or the parent who wants to reduce his hours — do you get frustrated with colleagues who seemingly work fewer hours than you do? If so, it may well be you who has the problem. The most important thing from an employer's perspective is value and productivity in the workplace, not the number of hours you work. So just because other people leave at 5 p.m. on the dot, it doesn't mean they are doing a bad job. It may just be that they've found out how to be healthier as their work-life balance is improving.
7. You have one topic of conversation
You don't know what's happening in the news, what the result of the big game was, or even who the president is these days. If it's not quarter-end-close-related, it isn't worth discussing. If this sounds like you, it won't be long before you bore everyone else around you to tears.
8. Your relationships fail
You were late for that dinner date, had to cancel a weekend away, and then spent your partner's birthday on the phone to various clients. If you're not able to make space for the important people in your life, there's a good chance they'll give up on you in the end. Nobody wants to feel as if they're competing with a laptop, tablet or briefcase. It's your responsibility to strike the right balance between your personal and professional life.
It is important to work hard and give your all to your employer. Showing commitment to your organization can be good for career progression, and it can give you the edge on other similarly performing professionals. But if you work too hard, and fail to achieve a sensible work-life balance, you're setting yourself up to fail in the long term.
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