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 Breaking the Binge Cycle

By Joe Stein

It is one of the newest terms in work vernacular…”binge working”. This is a situation defined as when a person works over 60 hours a week to accomplish what needs to be done at work. Unfortunately, my guess is that many of you reading this, who are actively employed, are saying to yourself…”I do that almost every week”. I probably would personally join you in that statement, based on my own work history.
Forbes magazine recently had an article that outlined the health hazards of participating in this quantity of work hours. The stress and fatigue by expending this type of effort at work has been linked to issues both physical, such as heart disease, as well as psychological concerns. The situation is further compounded by the fact that “binge working” is often tied to related poor habits, such as a lack of exercise or bad eating choices.
“Binge working” is also directly opposite of what most employees’ value at a company. Most studies show that “work life balance” is the #1 non-compensable benefit desired by employees, far outpacing items such as company events and free coffee/snacks, etc. 
The federal government has even taken note of this issue, especially in situations where the person is exempt from overtime and, therefore, not being compensated for each additional hour worked. The President recently issued a memorandum to the Department of Labor Secretary, to revamp the criteria regarding who can be considered exempt from overtime, as well as possibly increasing the federal exempt minimum wage.
Now I do recognize that for some, “binge working” is not considered a problem. Depending on your situation, it may fit in perfectly with your desire to get ahead in an organization. It may also be aligned with an individual’s work ethic and what they personally value. In some situations, people may even be willing to take the potential risks associated with it in order to reach other goals.
If your work hours are a concern, then there are some things you can do about it. If you are currently employed, you can adjust your current situation although this can be very difficult to accomplish. You are probably working these hours already because it is the company culture or the way to get ahead. Now that you have already established what you are willing to work, it is generally very difficult to cut back without it negatively impacting how people rate your performance. You can also start looking for a new job with “work life balance” as one of your criteria for selecting the position. A Job Seeker can either be very overt and ask the Hiring Manager what the work requirements are, or you can draw your own conclusions by asking some related questions. Below are some suggestions regarding how you can determine what is the work culture towards hours worked in an organization.
·         Get a sense of how current leadership rose thru the organization. You can ask for the path taken by the Hiring Manager that allowed them to reach their current position. If the response is focused on working nights, weekends, etc., it will probably be very telling regarding the overall attitude towards “binge working”.
·         Be sure to have a clear understanding of the overall expectations of the job. If you have done this type of work before, you will probably have a good sense of how much time it will take to accomplish it. Ask about additional projects that may be available or assigned. The focus on what will be performed on the job should keep the conversation geared towards the job and not have the Hiring Manager start to doubt your work ethic.
·         Seek information from others about the work culture of the organization. You can do this the traditional way by asking people who already work there that you happen to know. There are also websites devoted to allowing people to post feedback about a company. The caution tied to relying on this online information is often you will only be reading the feedback of disgruntled current or ex-employees who have turned to the internet.
As noted above, “work life balance” is one of the most important aspects of workplace culture for employees. If a person is out of balance and “binge working”, then there are a number of options. These include sticking it out, talking to your next-level Manager, or looking for a new job. If you do decide to look for a new job, then has a NEW confidential profile resume tool for “passive” Job Seekers that you may want to check out!
As always, best of luck in your job search!