Do You Work Too Hard ? Some Cultural Perspectives

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Do you think that the number of hours you spend at work is related to well-being , happiness and better health ?

I came across an article from comparing the number of hours spent on work and well-being, putting in parallel the American and European working habits as well as regulations. The conclusion of the article is that Americans are intrinsically workaholics and  have much more problems to get a healthy work-life balance than Europeans. Source: America can learn from Europe on work-life balance.

I think the article is a bit idealistic about work conditions in Europe, especially for global executives. In France for example despite the official 35 working hours per week regulation, 10 weeks paid maternity leave and 5 to 8 weeks vacation, managers and executives often work more than 40-45 hours per week,  get high peer pressure to stay late at work until 8:00 or 8:30pm and are available 24/7 to work through mobile technologies like Blackberries including on vacation. So corporate culture is often more important than cross-cultural perception on work-life balance.


This is the result of globalization and international executives do not benefit much from local working regulations regardless where they officially live.


How much you earn has also an impact on your job satisfaction. If you work less and get less paid you might not be able to pay for child care for example or as two working parents you may pay too much taxes, forcing one parent to quit job. This is often the case in Germany or Sweden for example. So you may end up becoming a miserable stay-at home parent because you did not really choose to be one.

Although I agree that not taking enough rest is killing productivity and may increase health problems, I think you have to make a distinction between quantity and quality.

If you really love what you do and are in a state of mind called “flow” then the number of hours you work is not related to stress. If you are in a working place where your boss is micromanaging or bullying you and you get upset or resentful then you have high level of stress and higher probability to become sick and each additional hour is increasing your pain.

The concept of “flow” or “optimal experience” has been introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi a psychologist making connections between satisfaction and daily activities in his book: ” Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience“. Do you know how to recognize the state of “flow” ? Usually you are so engaged by what you do that you ignore the time you spend on a particular activity, you are intrinsically rewarded by what you do and truly happy. Seems simple isn’t it ?  So why do you think you work too hard then ?

Maybe you think you work too hard because you are in the wrong job ?

I suggest you spend some time to figure out what is good for YOU, what makes you truly happy ? Maybe you need to change your work environment and align what you do with  who you really are and your life purpose rather than focusing on the number of hours you work.

Do you think you have no choice ?

Well think again, in each situation you have choices ! Yes you do !   I am absolutely convinced that thinking that you have no choice is  giving you much more stress than working long hours on something you chose to do.

So do you think you work too hard because you have no choice or because you are in the wrong job ?

Please share your  opinion and experience :

  • When did you feel the most miserable at work, why ? 
  • How did you change your situation.? 
  • Do you think  money too is related to happiness at work ?
  • Your general thoughts about job happiness and cultures ?


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About Anne Egros

Zest and Zen is a blog about Expat Life Challenges, Global Leadership, Intercultural Communication, Health and Wellness, Nutrition, Change Psychology, Life Transitions
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9 Responses to Do You Work Too Hard ? Some Cultural Perspectives

  1. Pingback: Indulgence vs. Restraint – Do we need this 6th Dimension in Intercultural Training and Coaching ? | Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach

  2. [主页] says:

    Unquestionably believe that which you stated.
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  3. Tina Qiu says:

    From both personal and professional health, it is very important to enjoy what you do and go with “flow”, instead of “struggling” from work. When your mind is in a positive stage, you can react effectively.

  4. Judy says:

    I think this is becoming less defined by country and more by individual companies or industries. While I agree that ideally you should be in a job where work and play are essentially the same thing, so that work is not a burden, many companies and individuals have taken that to mean that in order to be a “good” employee you should dedicate your life to work. The world isn’t perfect and not everyone will find the perfect job/career, but it is possible to balance your life by activities you do beyond making a living, if you have the time to do so.

    • Thanks Judy and Susanna for your comments. While I agree with Judy that not everybody can have an ideal job and the perfect balanced life, I think many people have difficulties to get an holistic view of their life and often do not take the necessary time to look at their choices and make conscious decisions. I was shocked to learn that Americans watch TV for 4.5 hours per day on average, that is about 30 hours per week !!! If they only spend 10 % off that time to plan their life, they can make many small changes that will have a huge impact on their quality of life. I love using the “Wheel of Life” with my clients so they can see where they want to invest their most precious asset : time ! You don’t need to have a perfect round wheel but it is in your power to decide what you can change in your life to make a difference. Often changing perspective and perception is all it take to go from hell to heaven !

  5. FutureExpat says:

    I would argue that, regardless of corporate culture, if you’re living in a place that doesn’t recognize the benefits of time away to refresh and renew oneself, you’re probably working too hard. In the US, even companies that provide time off with pay are quite stingy about it, and in many companies they penalize you if you actually take the time you’re entitled to. This does not make for productive or happy workers.

  6. sari says:

    I think that what is important is to always keep in mind that work is ‘part of’ your life but not ‘your’ life.

    From my point of view, that illustrates the notion of ‘balance’ – and each one has its own balance – but also the notion of ‘richness’ in a work. You can’t stay hours at work and be interested in no other things: it is boring and damaging for your work and your relationships (professionally and personally).
    The trend of ‘field specialists’ have narrowed the intellect of managers and the hours spent at work do not leave you many time to “fulfill” yourself with new ideas nor “refill” yourself with some quality time.

    I’d say that you should stay at work as long as you enjoy it, it can be 10 or 12 hours a day; it can even never really leave your mind BUT remember: work is not your whole life…work is not a world in itself so never forget to open your eyes and your soul to rest of the world.

    • Thanks Elisabeth for your comment. In fact I don’t like to use the term work-life balance, it’s a key word more than a reality because you are one person, with one life so I prefer the term “balanced life”. The way you perceive happiness in your life is very personal.

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