Don’t Let Your Work Kill You

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Postimage 1231

Good to Great author Jim Collins tells a story of the former CEO of Gillette, Coleman Mockler, a shy and humble man who fought off corporate raiders during the 80’s, keeping Gilette independent and prosperous. Even during the company’s darkest and most intense times of the takeover crisis, and despite the increasing global nature of the business, Collins notes that Mockler rarely worked evenings or weekends. Instead, he spent that time with his family, never missed church, and was actively involved with a non-profit board.

When Collins asked how Mockler was able to pull this off, a fellow executive said, “Oh, it really wasn’t hard for him. He was so good at assembling the right people around him… that he just didn’t need to be there at all hours of the day. That was Coleman’s secret to success and balance.”

Mr. Mockler, you are my hero. Because, dear sir, here is my own dark corporate confession: I am not a workaholic, either.

In spite of a healthy desire to climb the corporate ladder and make myself indispensable to my employers, I never latched on to the idea of working an insane amount of hours to prove my worth. I didn't think it was necessary, nor did I choose to work in companies where an epic work week was the norm. Instead, my philosophy has always been to work smarter than stupid hard. After all, our work is generally judged more by the results produced rather than the number of hours we slave away. So why be a slave?

I like to work, but I also like to come home and relax and play. I can’t imagine being overly defined by just one thing. Sure, there are times that require working into the night to meet a deadline, or to pull out all the stops for a period of time to complete a critical project or deal with a crisis. But for the most part, I have stuck to a plan that included leaving the office at a decent hour in order to be home for dinner.

The desire to maintain a reasonable work week is verging on taboo these days. In some circles, the number of hours worked is seen as a badge of honor, glorified as an indication of one’s indefatigable drive and commitment.

As if the work we are doing will keep the earth from spinning off its axis.

Others are forced into long hours against their better judgment, oppressed by the pile-on of ever-increasing workloads, or becoming the unwilling minion of a boss who expects that no one else has a life, either.

But for anyone who ever needed a reason to blow, a new study found that employees who regularly worked 11-hour days or longer (including work they took home with them) were 67% more likely to develop heart disease than those who worked seven- or eight-hour days.

There you have it. Working too hard can kill you.

Cardiovascular expert Dr. Gregg Fonarow, however, arched a bristled eyebrow at this conclusion, saying in a USA Today article that the long hours may simply be a factor in creating an unhealthy lifestyle. "Those working long hours may have less time for exercise, healthy eating and physicians visits," he said. "They may be exposed to more stress, get less sleep and engage in other behaviors which contribute to cardiovascular risk."

I’m sure my hero, Mr. Mockler, would have had a thing or two to say about this study. Unfortunately, Mockler dropped dead from a massive heart attack in his office in 1991. They say it was his pack-a-day cigarette habit that did him in.

At least he had no regrets about the amount of time he spent at work.

Image by Kelly Sauer. Used with permission.