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Still Working?

Everyone else has gone home, why are you still working?

Are You Still At the Office?

What I’m interested in exploring is why you work the hours you work from a different perspective.

You see, I’m tired of hearing the cliché that “nobody puts on their headstone ‘I wish I worked more hours.'” I’ve not walked around any cemeteries reading headstones, but I agree that it’s unlikely anyone would choose that for their headstone.

But I would challenge whether the meaning of that cliché is true.

Enjoy Your Work

I firmly believe there are people who so thoroughly enjoy their work that the hours they spend working are exactly what they want to be doing. These people are not workaholics per se, but they love what they do and want to do it all the time.

Many artists and musicians fall into this category. They write, paint or play all day and all night, and in our culture, that is considered acceptable. No one ever called the Beatles workaholics despite performing grueling hours early in their career.

But someone who is fascinated with the commodities market can be just as committed to their career as an artist. Same is true for someone who loves to sell cars, design phone apps, or raise cattle. But it is the non-artists who are characterized as the workaholics.

The bottom line is they may just enjoy what they are doing and cannot get enough of doing what they love.

Rewarding Work

We tend to forget many jobs are rewarding. Some jobs may be advantageous to society and the more hours worked, the better society is. A social worker who is placing foster kids or a trauma surgeon saving lives would be one of those jobs.

Some workers may find the work they do to be personally rewarding and want to do as much as they can. And, given the choices, such as watching television or cleaning a household, they may choose to continue to put more hours in doing what they love.

Pride and Accomplishment

Other workers may find the work they do gives them a deep sense of pride and accomplishment. Designing the tallest building in the world would be a job that could provide immense job satisfaction and motivate a designer to work more hours than normal.

Love to Work, or a Workaholic

So, in fellowship and respect for my fellow comrades who love to work, I would offer this list of questions for you to consider while you work alone in your office after everyone else has gone home.

  1. Do your spouse and children think you work too much?
  2. Is it the work you do that keeps you at the office or is it the fear of the outside-of-work life that keeps you in the office?
  3. By working, are you hiding from other situations such as social engagements and home activities?
  4. When you are home, are you emotionally and intellectually present?
  5. Can you and have you recently worked a typical 40-hour work week?
  6. Is it perfectionism that you are working on?
  7. Do you need your work to justify your self-esteem and self-approval?
  8. Is your work ultimately just to just please other people – can you say “no” to an assignment or request?
  9. When you work extra hours, do you equate that to additional money?

Honest answers to these questions will tell you if your work is a healthy passion, or is it an unhealthy obsession for which you may need help.

Anxiety at Work

Unfortunately, we spend too much time worrying about things at work that are out of our control. We worry that interest rates might rise, a client might not pay her bill, or a piece of equipment may fail.

And each of these worries is taking time and effort from your ability to get your job done. To do your job the best, you need to be free of anxiety caused by things out of your control.

Here are several habits to adopt that will significantly reduce anxiety in your workplace.

  1. Know your people – this may sound elementary, but knowing your staff will help you to quickly and confidently identify and solve issues that arise. Nothing eliminates anxiety quicker than making a problem disappear.
  2. Ask for help – even though you are the boss doesn’t mean you know everything. A source of anxiety is trying to solve problems for which you are not the expert.
  3. Release your thoughts – I call this a “brain dump.” We all work in a fast-paced environment and often anxiety is caused simply because you cannot get your thoughts in order. Sit down and write what is on your mind. This will give your mind time to re-organize and prioritize what is occupying your thoughts.
  4. Have in-person conversations -non-verbal communications will help identify underlying issues that otherwise will subtly cause anxiety. We have all had those moments where we know something is not right but what that it is elusive.
  5. Name what is bothering you – if something is nagging you, stop and isolate exactly what that is. It may take time but never allow yourself to be anxious over an unidentified problem. This may require some help, but all your problems need to be named.
The Bible

Psalm 127 is dedicated to those who work hard for the wrong reasons.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. (Psalm 127:1-2)

There is nothing wrong with loving your work. But the Bible extols the need that the work you do be done for the right reason, and ultimately for God’s glory.

There are lots of ways to glorify God, does your work glorify Him?