If you passed through a New York City subway station in early March, you may have spotted a peculiar ad along your commute. The black-and-white ad for Fiverr, a digital freelance marketplace where creatives and coders alike offer services for as low as $5, stars a frazzled-looking woman with unbrushed hair. “You eat coffee for lunch. You follow through on your follow through,” the ad reads. “Sleep deprivation is your drug of choice. You might be a doer.”
The ad came under fire for romanticizing the way workers prioritize the demands of the job over their physical and mental health. “The ‘gig economy’ is literally killing us,” wrote user @b_cavello, whose now-viral tweet fueled the initial backlash.
But whether we work freelance or full-time, the idea of working ourselves into the ground is hardly new, particularly for Americans. How many of us have humble-bragged (#nevernotworking) about how utterly busy we are? How often have we stayed late in the office or worked through a weekend to appear the exemplary employee?
If that’s not ringing a bell, let’s look at the facts: Americans work 25 percent more than their European counterparts, according to a working paper by economists Alexander Bick of Arizona State University, Bettina Bruggemann of McMaster University, and Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln of Goethe University Frankfurt.
“So many workers put in long hours, especially salaried employees,” said economist Heather Boushey, who co-authored the study Overworked Americans for the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “If you love your job, does that mean you don’t have the right to go home and see your family, or go on vacation? There may be a period where you’re happy to work a lot, but people shouldn’t be forced to do it every day.”
Working around-the-clock doesn’t always equal logging hours in an office. Employment in the 21st century often means taking work calls or firing off emails anywhere and anytime, with “business hours” reserved only for the post office and DMV.
“Work-life balance is in decline,” Glassdoor spokesperson Allison Berry told Mic. Berry blamed technology advancement as a main contributor to after-hours work. "People don't feel like they can unplug from their job," she said.
Work-life balance –– or the concept that an employee can attain harmony between work and personal life –– is, at best, a lofty goal. At worst, it’s downright fiction, something for us to dream about while climbing into our cars for another rush-hour commute.
That doesn’t mean we should just give up, of course. Maintaining a healthy personal life won’t just make us more fulfilled, but also keep us mentally and physically healthier.
Here are 15 signs your work-life balance needs adjustment.