Workaholics: Do Americans Work too Hard?

At one time, before the industrial revolution, the citizens of the forefathers in industrialization did not have labor parties or rules that governed the working hours or conditions of the workers. Children, adults, and even the elderly toiled for hours and hours to make ends meet. Later on, the workers realized that they could join labor movements and bargain in solidarity, where they had more bargaining power. In the present times, all countries have made it illegal to over-exploit the workers (CDC). The countries have a legal limit of some working conditions and age that each organization’s workers should comply with. In modern times, people have started to work more than the required legal limit to make ends meet.

Workaholism mostly happens out of passion (Shimazu et al. 20). From 2014’s statistics, it evident that the USA residents are number 18 in the list ranked by the number of hours that they worked. American men work an average of 8.4 hours a day while women spend 7.7 hours a day laboring. However, one can only say if Americans really work too hard after comparing the rates mentioned above to those of other countries. In comparison to India, Americans do not work much as Indians work for 2,365 hours per year. At he same time, the comparison between the USA and Germany, Japan, Spain, France, and Australia sheds light on the fact that Americans may be working harder than citizens of other very developed nations.

Workaholism is defined as the uncontrollable need to work. A workaholic would rather work than pursue other interests. These people will work even if the need to work is not driven by poverty or a sense of duty. Workaholics are emotionally, physically, and mentally invested in the work they do. Workaholics have persistent thoughts revolving around work. While hard work is a virtue that most bosses prefer, workaholism is not a desirable characteristic (Clark).

Nevertheless, being a workaholic is not necessarily a bad thing. When a project or business is still in its incubation period, workaholism is needed to make sure that the project or the clientele grow, which can also trigger the growth of professional reputation after people know that you are a workaholic. On the other hand, workaholism can break one’s social ties and may even ruin the professional relationships. Generally, workaholism has more adverse effects than positive ones. Workaholism increases job-related stress and counterproductive work behaviors while reducing job satisfaction and general performance. The family outcomes of workaholism are reduced family and relationship satisfaction, as well as increased work-life conflict and marital disaffection. It also has profound impacts on individual outcomes such as reduced physical, emotional, and mental health, which can manifest itself in increased burnouts, emotional exhaustion, cynicism, and depersonalization (McCready).

Working for long hours only increases productivity up to the 50th hour, after which it falls acutely according to a study done by John Pencavel. In the study, he found that it is disadvantageous both to the employee or the employer to work extra hours. A person who is working for 70 hours has the same productivity as a person working for 50 hours but costs the organization more in the expenses of running complimentary machinery, provision of light, heat, and supervisors. Besides these negative effects of working for long, it also leads to sleep deprivation, which is another productivity killer (Levy 639). Physical and mental work results in fatigue, which limits cognitive and bodily resources like the clarity of the vision or the response delivery, which reduces the preciseness and the speed of the workers. This makes it even harder to maintain the quality and safety requirements.

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The fair Labor Standards Act does not have set limits in which a person over the age of 16 should work. In the last two decades, Americans have been clocking in more hours than they used to. An average worker should work for 50 hours after which fatigue may set in and reduce their productivity and the clarity of thinking. This finally leads to more accidents in the workplace and a lag in productivity. Therefore, the USA government should enact a law that limits the number of hours that the employees work. This will reduce the number of accidents that happen, promote productivity, and reduce exploitation. The number of hours an average American works is steadily rising despite not being rewarded or compensated with overtime pay (Clark 298). This is akin to the exploitation of the workers, and a law limiting the number of hours that a person should work will stop this exploitation. The act should have alternatives to having people working overtime such as companies hiring part-time workers. The act should specify that every extra hour that a person works should be well compensated.

Working excessively is similar to overtime. It is beneficial to companies that have to cover for the unexpectedly absent employees or increased demand. The jobs that only run on a particular period may use overtime to make sure that they maximize on time that is a limited resource. Regardless of these advantages, there is a problem with overworking. Labor and statistics body cites a 4% increase in the number of hours that an average American works.

The problems associated with overworking are safety risks, health problems, absenteeism, and reduced productivity. The increased health problems include lower-back injury for the jobs that involve a lot of lifting, higher suicide rates and alcohol consumption, lower birth rate and gestation age in women, and increased mental issues (CDC). Overworking results in impaired performance and reduced accuracy, which leads to errors in the workplace and increased chances of accidents.

Overworking also leads to productivity decline because of fatigue, which causes the inability to focus on simple tasks resulting in people taking a lot of time on small tasks. When a worker is given a lot of time to complete a small task, productiveness will decrease. Employees who work a lot may be worried about their work and social life balance, which leads to presentism. It is a problem of being physically present while thinking about other issues that are not work-related. Absenteeism will result from poor health, fatigue, or need for time off. Absenteeism will lead to the other employees being employed or the rest of the employees working more to cover for the absentees. These are the problems that are associated with overworking.

Working a lot affects the happiness of people. Single individuals with no social life may find happiness in working a lot as they have colleagues who provide companionship while people with friends and families may not be too happy working a lot. The amount of pay may also impact the happiness of the worker. If you are paid more to work more, some people may find happiness in working more. Deriving happiness from working a lot depends on the individual and the type of environment that the employees are working in.


Works Cited

CDC. “Work Schedules: Shift Work and Long Hours”.

Clark, Malissa A. “Psychological Science Agenda.” Psychological Science, 2016.

Clark, Malissa A., et al. “Workaholism, Work Engagement and Work-Home Outcomes: Exploring the Mediating Role of Positive and Negative Emotions.” Stress and Health, vol. 30, no. 4, 2014, pp. 287-300.

Levy, Daniele V. “Effects of Workaholism on Satisfaction among US Managerial and Professional Women.” Gender in Management: An International Journal, vol. 30, no. 8, 2015, pp. 635-651.

 McCready, Benjamin. The Structural Problem with Family and the 40-Hour Week, 2015.

Shimazu, Akihito, et al. “Workaholism vs. Work Engagement: The Two Different Predictors of Future Well-Being and Performance.” Intetnational Journal of Behavioral Medicine, vol. 22, no. 1, 2015, pp. 18-23.

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