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Can Working Too Hard Actually Hurt Your Career?
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Gina Belli via PayScale
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You were probably taught the value of hard work from a very young age. And, you’ve likely relied upon your work ethic to help you to accomplish goals in your professional life.

However, the results of a new survey of 52,000 employees from 36 European countries indicate that the career rewards of working longer hours might not ever materialize. Working harder and longer might not actually be the best way to get ahead.

Here’s what you need to know:

Our Culture Normalizes Overwork

It’s important to understand the preconceived notions we’re all bringing to the table when it comes to working hard.

Our culture teaches us to value overwork. This is evidenced by the fact that people often talk about how they’re “so busy” as if it’s a good thing. Many people spend their days, afternoons, nights and even weekends running from one place to the next all the while staying connected to work through email and through their phone.

We normalize overwork to the point that it implies that busy-ness equals success. But, it’s worth reexamining these kinds of beliefs. They might not be entirely accurate.

Hard Work Correlates with Reduced Well-Being

The authors of this report used data from the fifth and sixth European Working Conditions Surveys for their research. They found that there was a strong correlation between “greater work effort” and “reduced well-being.”

The authors also noted that this higher work intensity related “modestly to inferior career-related outcomes.” Furthermore, researchers discovered that working intensely was even more harmful than working long hours. They found that high work intensity was generally “a stronger predictor of unfavorable outcomes than overtime work.”

Stress Isn't Good for Workers or Organizations

At the end of the day, the things that hurt workers hurt the organizations that employ them.

Stress has long been linked to negative outcomes. Scientists have known for some time that stress can have serious health and behavioral consequences. And, these days, a lot of working adults’ stress comes from their professional lives. Forty percent of U.S. workers report experiencing office stress, and one-quarter say that work is their biggest source of stress, according to WebMD.

But, a company’s bottom line doesn’t improve when work-stress goes up. And, more and more research, like this new report, suggests that workers aren’t more productive when they work harder or longer. It’s time to start to look at things a little differently.

Breaks Don't Hurt, They Help

Some individuals and employers are starting to wise up and listen to the research. Taking breaks — and dare I say, even taking vacation — is actually good for workers and, ultimately, for a company’s bottom line. Some organizations have even introduced policies that mandate time away from the office.

“Taking a seventh week off has just been revolutionary. It has changed everything for me,” Sean McCabe told Inc.

McCabe works with a team of content creators who take a week-long sabbatical every seventh week. “I cannot imagine my life without it…I have no idea how we used to work as hard as we did for six weeks and not stop, have no end in sight, no breaks, no checkpoints, no milestones, no steps back, and no chance to re-evaluate where we are and what we’re focusing on.”

It's Better to Work Smarter, Not Harder

Humans aren’t machines. It turns out that forcing longer hours isn’t the key to getting more out of us. Thankfully, more people and companies are beginning to understand this and prioritize accordingly.

This article originally appeared on PayScale.

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