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Gratuitous Overtime: A New Fashion Trend

Extreme workaholism, though cherished by our society, has its dark side.

What is he doing? Just scrolling the newsfeed or working? The reality is, nobody knows!

Fashion changes. For everything.

Architecture. Music. Art. Home interior. Cars. Leisure. Clothes. Body shape. Hair color…

Things that attract admiration and fascination are in a constant state of change, leaving the majority of us with little choice but to follow and obey the new fashion rules.

Spirit of the Times

In the not-too-distant past, the ultimate display of status and privilege was to fly by private jet to Spain for a dinner, party with supermodels on one of your numerous yachts, buy diamonds and sports cars as presents for your friends, or invite some celebrity to sing at your child’s birthday party.

For the super-rich, this used to be the most flagrant way to show they could afford things that others could not (and would not) get – this was their way of demonstrating power and status. And the rest of stood by as either silent onlookers or frank admirers who applauded such reckless squandering as a lifestyle we all desired.

However, a new fashion trend is emerging. Professional money wasting as a display of status is gradually being driven out by a more sophisticated trend for the upper crust to establish their supremacy. This is the age when the wealthy flaunt their status by worshiping labor: The harder you work, the higher your status.

To make their efforts really count, they have to be conspicuously visible to the public in order to showcase their supernatural abilities and power. Just like the world’s rich have always loved to boast about how they spend money and what they can afford, the new generation of monied and privileged love to boast to the public about how many hours per week they spend in their offices.

And, mind you, none of those who publically display their super productivity need even show up at work, let alone stay in the office for up to 100 hour per week. This is just a new way of demonstrating their superiority.

Today, America’s top CEOs and other chief executives can be compared to participants of an ultramarathon. They squeeze every drop of productivity from themselves to show what they are really capable of, and to demonstrate that there are no limits to their abilities. For that reason, they feel they deserve public recognition, admiration and awe.

The Good and the Bad

These new trendsetters promote the cult of extreme workaholism among the masses. Younger generations – Millennials, in particular – are turning work into an object of praise and boasting.

Recently, I ran into a friend of mine by chance in a supermarket. He works as a web designer at one of the leading digital marketing agencies in Manhattan. It had been three years or so since our last chance to talk to each other. Nevertheless, the first thing he told me was how many hours he had spent at work last week.

He was looking at me with bloodshot eyes, but glowing with pride. The amount of time he usually stays at the office impressed me, even though I work a lot myself. Designing for more than 90 hours per week, it’s no wonder he had nothing else to talk about – his work occupies almost all of his time. But he looked absolutely happy about it.

The reason for such absolute dedication and commitment is that he is truly in love with what he does. He is enthusiastic about his job, and going the extra mile naturally brings him joy and satisfaction.

And he is not alone. Here is how Radmir Khodjakhanov, a typical representative of the Millennial Generation puts it:

I pretty well realize that everybody needs money to survive. But for me getting paid a lot for what I do is not the ultimate goal. My goal is be paid for what I really love. I do not want to work just to pay my bills — I want to be satisfied with what I do. If so, why not work more?

The number of people who are ready to sacrifice themselves on the altar of work is growing. For them, high wages are not the only motivation. They work harder, are ready for challenges and rough patches, and are not afraid to take on responsibilities because this is what makes sense in their lives.

The knowledge economy is upon us and people with extraordinary skills and abilities are in high demand. They are the reason we enjoy more and more innovative hi-tech solutions each day. These productivity-driven people work with information, analytics and knowledge, and are available 24/7 to create products that have no equivalents on the market, or even relevant markets on which to promote them.

Today’s extreme workaholics are the engine of progress. They fuel innovation and drive today’s economy. The reality is that we need them for their brilliance and their potential to move our economy forward. And from this perspective, I cannot say that such labor worshiping is a bad phenomenon.

But extreme workaholism has its dark side. In the pursuit of new challenges and greater achievements that are necessary to their lives, people are exposed to heavy stress and continuous psychological strain. Even though they report being happy doing what they do, all of them admit that they undergo some difficulties in their lives.

Obviously, the most common problems caused by poor work-life balance are various health issues – both physical and mental – and spoilt relationships with children and spouses. Workaholism hides a long list of dangers, including:

  • Insomnia

  • Extra weight

  • Heart disease

  • Depression and anxiety

  • High blood pressure

Under such circumstances, the likelihood of ending up in the hospital in no time is, without exaggeration, extremely high.

So, is the realization of your personal potential in your career worth being burnt out, physically exhausted and depressed as a result? Maybe. Such sacrifice might be necessary at the beginning of your career – when you are young and ready to move mountains – to acquire your reputation and gain a strong foothold.

The healthier alternative, though, is to not allow work to interfere with your personal life. For people whose jobs have become an integral part of their lives, it is hard to make room for families, hobbies, leisure, socialization, sports and other pleasures of life. So striking a balance between work and life should be accepted as one of life’s challenges.

The followers of the cult of extreme workaholism are valued and recognized by society, but they are living their lives at the expense of not living their lives to the fullest. At work, they intentionally do their utmost to not only broadcast their own significance, but to derive satisfaction from what they do. The only question is, how long will this satisfaction last, at such a crazy pace?

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