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Are you the office martyr?

Do you turn down help from colleagues and sneer at the idea of delegating to someone else? Are you constantly checking emails and messages, or have you managed to get a tan from the light of your iPhone? Have you refused to take a much-deserved holiday, for fear it might tip your company into irreversible chaos?

If you answered yes to the above questions, you might just be the office martyr.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald,  there's a growing number of people who are actively looking to overload themselves at work. They're taking on more tasks and labouring round the clock, then letting everybody else around them know about it.

It makes sense that, faced with a sluggish job market, more of us would want to show that we can pull our weight. And many women feel a special pressure to be recognised for their work – especially in industries where they still constitute a minority. In these situations, the temptation to put work commitments before our own needs is great – but so are the consequences.

"Such a high level of commitment can come with significant costs and your ability to deliver value to an employer may be short-lived if your hectic workload is unsustainable," psychologist and director of Voice Project Dr Peter Langford explains to the SMH.

Some warn that working too hard could harm rather than boost careers (even if we are banging on about it). The major risks include stressing out colleagues and clients, creating counterproductive competition within the office, and offering sub-standard products or services because of decisions made on the fly. It could also lead to early career burnout, and personal lives can suffer too.

The “tireless employee” presents a dilemma to most managers, Dr Langford says: how is a manager supposed to say no if we’re willing to work more hours, solve more problems, sell more widgets? But it’s up to the management to set the mood and pace of an office, and there are some tackling this issue head on: organisations like E.ON and MandG are known for their progressive policies on work-life balance, like promoting flexible working.

It’s great if we’re putting in extra hours because we love our work. But ultimately, women should be conscious that if they aren’t happy with the working culture of their current office, there are potentially more suitable options out there for them. If this sounds like you, then start by thinking broadly about the transferability of your skills. Think about what you could potentially bring to a new company – one that’s going to give back to you.

To read more:

E.ON: Flexibility at Work
M&G: Working at M&G

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