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Why we need to stop glamorising being a ‘workaholic’

We’ve all got that one friend, relative or colleague that is absolutely and irrevocably a workaholic. That person might even be you. It’s most certainly me. I’ve always seen my drive to work hard as a positive and something that will result in me ‘doing well in life’ (as they say). But recently, my perspective on so-called ‘workaholicism’ has been changing.


In fact, I suppose my perspective on ‘doing well in life’ has been changing. I don’t know about you, but I have always believed that doing well academically would lead to doing well professionally and therefore ‘in life’. But it’s only just dawned on me, after 20 long years of living, that perhaps your work life isn’t (or shouldn’t be) your whole life.


Before now, I have been known to revel in my workaholicism. I’m pretty sure I used to have a sweatshirt that had ‘workaholic’ printed on it. My sister’s Instagram bio literally states she is a self-professed ‘workaholic’. And although I don’t doubt that a successful and productive work life can be key to feeling satisfied with your career… where do the other parts of life fit in? And what if our popular culture is leading us to believe that overworking is somehow desirable?


The elusive work/life balance

At the risk of sounding like every self-help book ever written, I do think it's important we remember that a balance between work and personal life is maintained. Working after hours might be ideal for your employer and colleagues… but what about your partner, your family or YOURSELF?


We are becoming too used to seeing successful workaholics (especially women, I’d say) on our TV screens that we are beginning to forget that it’s not real life. Meghan Markle as Rachel Zane in Suits didn’t actually have to go home to her boyfriend after working what seems like an 18-hour day. And none of the Grey’s Anatomy characters would even have time to wash their scrubs with the amount they seem to work. So yes, they may be characters that are killing it professionally. But their personal lives? A complete shambles! So why are we glamorising it?


Working 9 till 5 (and maybe a bit more on a Tuesday and a Thursday)

I know what you’re all thinking. Really, I do. You’re thinking that if you just work the bare minimum, the so-called 9 till 5, you’ll never get anywhere professionally. And, honestly, you might be right. It’s not exactly shocking that employers appreciate that ‘extra mile’, and you may be more likely to climb that corporate ladder if you do fall under this ‘workaholic’ category. We’ve all seen that Instagrammer that leaves the office at 10pm, claiming you’ve got to ‘work hard to achieve your dreams’. But what we don’t see is them arriving home (alone) and realising they didn’t eat lunch, they forgot to do the laundry and they have absolutely nothing in the house for dinner. Not all it’s cracked up to be, is it?


So, what’s the alternative? How can we be successful professionals without forfeiting food, sleep and a personal life? My advice: be a ‘workaholic’ if you must… but only on certain days.


At the start of the week, organise the days you are working with your personal life plans. Let’s say you have dinner with a friend on Monday and the gym on Wednesday. You can then make sure you can go that ‘extra mile’ and make your employer happy without compromising your personal life. So, on Monday you’re out of the office 5pm sharp to hit the town which means you can stay at your desk until 6.30pm on Tuesday to make sure you’re all set for the rest of the week!


Ultimately, we all just need to tone it down a notch. Being a ‘workaholic’ might be non-negotiable for some of us, but it doesn’t mean it has to ruin our personal lives. And it is certainly not a title to strive for cause your favourite Netflix character does it! We once again need to be reminded as a society that social media and American sitcoms are not, and never will be, real life – so let’s stop striving to be like a fictional character! By all means, work hard but please… don’t forget to sleep, eat and play hard too!


Words by: Laura Cameron

Edited by: Yasmine Moro Virion


I'm an undergrad at the University of Leeds, studying for my degree in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. I'm fuelled mostly by coffee, my love for dogs and my overly keen desire to share my opinions (and I have a fair few). You can usually find me phone-in-hand, scrolling through Instagram or shopping for clothes I really can’t afford.
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