Your Work or Your Life?
Today my friend showed me an article about a Toyota engineer who died from overwork. Apparently the 45 year old Japanese man was working 80 hours of overtime a month for two months and finally his heart gave out. It is a sad example of a person who chose his job over his life.
In Japan, deaths resulting from overwork is called "karoshi " and Japan's Ministry of Labor has been publishing statistics about the problem since the 1980s. It has been shown that many workers that die from overworking die from strokes or heart attacks, and the deaths are usually quite sudden. Many workers also commit or attempt suicide due to work induced depression.
Personally, I have never worked an extreme amount of overtime even though I am an engineer in the Silicon Valley and this is a place full of workaholics. However, I have seen the effects of extreme overtime on people. A company I used to work for has an Indian office where people worked 14 to 16 hour days. One of my ex-coworkers went over to India for a short while and actually fell ill because he was working the same extreme hours as them. After he came back the CEO cut the hours at the Indian office to 12 hours a day. I think there is no point to working more than 8 or 9 hours a day because when a person is tired and stressed he or she would not be extremely productive.
When work is not mandatory, I have met two types of people who work overtime. The first type is the stakeholders that are passionate about their job. For example, I have met CEOs that work from 7am to 1am because they are bent on buliding their own company. In other words, work is life for these people. The second type is the people who need or want money. I have met a guy that had two full time jobs so he worked 16 hours a day and then slept and another guy that works overtime purely for the overtime pay. In either case, I think there needs to be moderation because everyone needs time to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
So do you choose your work or your life? It is a no brainer for me since I would gladly choose "homeless and alive" over "rich and dead". For those people whose lives are inseparable with their work the choice might not be so clear. Regardless of how much you love your work, if your work starts to affect your physical and mental health significantly, then it may be wise to cut back.