The Latest Occupational Hazard? Binge Working

Jacqui Kenyon
Posted

binge workingHave you ever gotten absorbed in a project on your laptop, only to look at the clock to see that three hours have passed?

TODAY Money calls it the “hypnotic effects of technology,” and it’s just one of several factors contributing to a new and dangerous office trend: binge working.

With more and more employees connected at all hours, anxious about money and job security, and pumped up on good ol’ caffeine, working beyond any semblance of a normal office day is becoming more common—and sometimes with dangerous results.

Several binge-working-related deaths have made the headlines in recent months, including Mita Diran, a 24-year-old copywriter who worked a 30-hour stretch before collapsing and dying shortly thereafter.

Although Diran’s is an extreme case, there are many negative consequences that can stem from binge working, including a decrease in work quality, unplanned long-term absences and health problems. Ken Matos, who researches workplace trends at the nonprofit Families and Work Institute, told TODAY that the long-term effects will also include shorter lifespans for those who forsake taking breaks in the evening and on weekends.

The Real Reason Behind the Bingeing

Why do employees feel the need to toil for so many hours in a row without rest? It’s not just about how technology enables workers to be available at all times. Matos says there’s a deeper reason: Companies recognize and reward the wrong attributes.

“Organizations can develop a culture that focuses on the effort expended rather than the quality provided. I call these cultures of self-sacrifice, where employee value is measured not by how productive they are but by how much time and personal sacrifices they need to make to complete their work,” he said. In this mindset, Matos says, it doesn’t matter if two employees produce the same quality results—whoever sat at his or her desk longer is considered the better employee.

Does this sound like your office? Check out our ten signs that you’re burning out—and how to stop it.