By now I’m sure you’d have read the story of a man dying from overwork.
Sadly, it happens to most of us.
Hell, I had a boss once who told me that there is no such thing as work-life balance, only work-life integration.
Yes, he was serious.
As a culture, are we overworked? How can we overcome this?
For that, we asked some Malaysians to share their stories of overworking and how they cope with it.
Working hours are 24 hours and 7 days a week, right?
Fahmi is a Public Relations Senior Executive who believes that work-life balance is a myth.
“I asked my boss during the interview if there was work life balance in the office. Because I was also studying part-time.”
“Although she said yes, it didn’t happen when I worked in the company.”
“I would leave the office at 10pm just to go home and work on my laptop until morning. That was the norm for me. I’d also had to let go of spending time in the gym or with my friends.”
Lynn recalls her moment during a client project, “I was the project lead, so I stayed at the office till 1 to 2am until my laptop crashed.”
“So I went home to take my Mac and went back to the office again so that things can be done in time for clients approval.
“I got home around 5 or 6am and spent almost 12-14 hours at work that day.”
Overworking happens in various industries. The medical industry is one of the worst overworked industries in Malaysia.
Preethi is a general practitioner whose longest on-call shift working was 32 hours. She thinks she might have done more.
“I have seen many good and impressive doctors give up the future to specialise to have work-life balance… why?”
“Why can’t we have the chance to improve ourselves AND have a life outside work?”
Why do we overwork?
Preethi claims that she wants to work harder to grow her career, “I worked my a** off to get to where I am, and I am not going to give up now.”
Meanwhile for Fahmi, he knows that he wasn’t living a healthy lifestyle, “I know I work too hard, and I still do. But it is what I enjoy doing, and what I know to do. After a while, the job gets easier.”
For Lynn, overworking is a matter of perception.
“Overworking is subjective. If you enjoy what you do, there’s no such thing as overworked. In my case, I enjoy working hence it doesn’t quite apply to me. It’s part and parcel of work really.”
Ain, a lecturer, believes that the payment justifies the work.
“I teach night classes because of the extra payment I get from clocking in the extra hours. So that kind of justifies it for me.”
But what if there is no money involved?
Is it just overwork, or is there something more that’s tiring Malaysian employees?
It’s about the SUPPORT, not the workload
Lynn says that overworking is not just being physically tired, but also mentally tired.
“Of course, physical health is important, but it’s very often that the mind breaks down first. Hence for me, it’s not the amount of the work, it’s the overall support system.”
Preethi says, “I feel the major issue here is under appreciation. People in general would work harder for a simple thank you or acknowledgement.”
“I feel superiors do not know how to value the employees that actually put in the effort.”
Ain says that the only time her boss listened to her, was when she tendered her resignation. Her boss promised a smaller workload, but things to return to normal shortly after.
Fahmi thinks that the Malaysian work culture is simply not supportive enough.
“I was going through a rough time and took some time off once. When I came back, I remember just sitting at my desk for half an hour because there were just so many things to be done, and I didn’t know where to start.”
So what did his boss have to say about that?
“She said that I didn’t know how to manage my time and I should have known what I signed up for.”
“With my current company, I don’t mind working overtime because they are flexible with me. I stay back sometimes to get work done, but that is not a norm.”
Perhaps it’s not the amount of work we’re doing that makes us overworked. But rather the amount of work we THINK we’re doing.
So where do we go from here?
Overworking doesn’t just come from work, it comes from the stress of dealing with bosses, colleagues, and clients.
I think that a supportive boss and colleagues helps take the pressure of the work we do.
While we can’t know exactly what job environment we are getting ourselves into, we can certainly take steps to research the company through reviews and the job itself.
And if we’re caught in a toxic environment and workload, it is time to start planning the exit.
No company is worth your health.
I believe that we are all replaceable in a company. If we’re not treated right, isn’t it time we start replacing our companies too?
For more articles about the dangers of overworking, read: I Worked Two Jobs & Suffered Burnout. Here Are 6 Ways I Learnt to Take Care of Myself.