Work to Live, or Live to Work?

Happy new year! Is it too late to still be saying that? While a new year represents a fresh start with a renewed focus on goals, it also tends to be a really busy time for folks at work. I see a lot of individuals in my practice, of all ages, who are experiencing work-related stress. My blog today will focus on things related to work stress and burnout to watch out for, and ways to start addressing it.

Did you know that people in the US work more than those in any other country? Did you also know we are one of the only countries that doesn’t limit the number of hours one can work in a week? Some estimates indicate that 85% of men and 66% of women work more than 40 hours per week. Based on my experience, I would guess that these numbers are even higher for those working in tech or finance.

I am certainly not saying that working 40+ hours a week is always bad. If you love your work and feel that the way your time spent is a good fit for you and consistent with your values, continue plugging away. If you’re not sure (or are sure but want some confirmation or direction!), read below.

Is work a problem? Ask yourself the following questions:

Are you burned out?

Ask yourself the following questions (taken from Mayo Clinic):

    1. Have you become cynical or critical at work?
    2. Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started?
    3. Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
    4. Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
    5. Do you find it hard to concentrate?
    6. Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
    7. Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
    8. Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
    9. Have your sleep habits changed?
    10. Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, stomach or bowel problems, or other physical complaints?

Are you too emotionally invested in your work?

Here is a great article that talks about how meaningful work is contributing to health problems. The article argues that more emotionally connected you are to your work, the more opportunity it has to negatively affect your wellbeing.

Are you doing things outside of work?

Many of us don’t have the luxury or working solely for fun, but have to work to support our family and pay our bills. If we’re lucky, we make enough money to enrich our lives in other ways – i.e., a comfortable home, nice vacations/experiences. If you are finding you don’t have the time or energy to engage in hobbies or with friends/family when you’re not working, then how is that job really serving you?

Steps you can take to address work-related issues.

Clarify expectations.

Sit down with your boss to clarify what is expected of you in terms of hours worked, availability, and productivity. After that, re-evaluate your work schedule and try something different out (i.e., leaving 2 days per week by 5 p.m.). Set aside time each day (and more time on days “off”) to be phone/computer free. This may also include turning off certain notifications on your phone.

Work smarter, not harder.

Research shows that we become less efficient after 50 hours of work in a week. If you’re struggling to get everything done in those hours or fewer, consider learning new strategies to increase efficiency. My clients have found Deep Work to be incredibly helpful.

Consider changing jobs or industries.

If you have tried the above suggestions (and countless other things!) and are still struggling with work stress or burnout, it may be time to change jobs. See what else is out there – the internet these days provides a wealth of insight into specific jobs and companies. Or, consider working with a recruiter or career coach to help you find a better fit.

I’ll end on this note: the Harvard Adult Development Study found that the #1 predictor of later life satisfaction is warm relationships. This was confirmed by my own experience working with the elderly. Very few spoke about their work, but everyone spoke about their family and friends. If your work is interfering with your ability to foster these kind of relationships, consider this a wake up call to change your situation.

If you live in the Austin area and feel like you would benefit from support and guidance on dealing with work stress or burnout, please reach out to me via telephone at 512-521-1531 or email me at to discuss your situation and see if I may be a good fit to help.