How much work is too much work? Even as unemployment has ballooned to alarming levels in recent years, those of us who are working are spending more hours at our labors than ever before. In fact, time on the job has increased precipitously in the last generation. Now, the ubiquitous “smart” phones indicate that, even as we seem to find greater freedom from the tether of the traditional 9 to 5 existence, we are expected to be available night and day.
Early humans developed language to improve face-to-face communication. From there came the written word. Then as we became more civilized, we added traditional post (snail mail). For centuries, we managed. Then, electronic communication was next with telegraph, telephone, email, voicemail and text in short order. With each, another order of magnitude was brought to already full days. In timelines now measured in days not centuries, we swim in newly created and available information. All of these tools make us more productive, perhaps. And besides, few if any of us are ready to give up the modern conveniences.
So how do we manage to remain engaged without succumbing to info obsession? How do we create boundaries? And, are we facing an epidemic of workaholicism? If an alcoholic drinks because they cannot prevent themselves from doing so, then does it stand to reason that a workaholic is likewise impaired? For many, finding the balance between a productive and gainful existence and a dangerous obsession may not be clear cut. When work, some might say, things that need to be done – emails to answer, calls to return, tasks to cross-off the list – is awaiting attention, can we find the will to walk away? Is it okay to say no to another duty; or is there always time for one more drink?