Why Do We Work So Much? The Endless Pursuit of Success

The modern-day world is one that revolves around productivity, where success is measured in terms of the number of hours put in by an individual in their field of work. The question that arises is, why do we work so much? What is the endless pursuit of success that drives us day in and day out?

The Definition of Success

Success is a term that is widely used and yet still ambiguous in nature. It is defined as the attainment of a desired goal, but what is considered to be desirable varies from person to person, society to society. There are different types of success, including personal, professional, financial, social, and spiritual success. In contemporary times, success is equated with material goods, prestige, and fame, and this, in turn, fuels the need to work harder and longer hours.

Factors That Contribute to Working Long Hours

Expectations and Pressure from Society

Society expects individuals to work long hours, irrespective of their personal needs and preferences. The culture of working long hours is considered a virtue, and those who do not comply are viewed with suspicion or contempt. The pressure to conform to societal norms is significant, and this causes individuals to prioritize work over other aspects of their life.

Financial Rewards

The primary reason why individuals work long hours is financial reward. It is believed that the more work an individual undertakes, the more money they will earn, and the more financially stable they will be. Individuals are conditioned to think that the acquisition of material possessions is an indicator of success, and this drives them to put in extra hours at their place of work.

Job Insecurity

The current economic environment is characterized by increasing levels of competition, globalization, and technological advancements that necessitate individuals to possess multiple skill sets to remain relevant. The consequence of this is that job security is uncertain, and individuals have to work harder and produce more to maintain their relevance in the workforce.


The workload assigned to individuals is often overwhelming, with assignments and projects being added to their to-do list, leading to increased hours spent at the workplace. In some cases, the workload is so high that the individual has to work longer hours to meet the deadlines.

The Impact of Long Working Hours on Health and Personal Life

Long working hours have a severe impact on the physical, emotional, and mental health of individuals. Lack of sleep, unhealthy diets, and sedentary lifestyles can lead to various health conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The social and personal life of individuals is also impacted as they have limited time to spend with their families, friends, and loved ones. The constant pressure of work can cause stress, anxiety, and depression, and this, in turn, can lead to a breakdown of relationships and reduced quality of life.

Strategies to Attain Work-Life Balance

The need to attain equilibrium between work and personal life is essential for one’s health, happiness, and overall well-being. Several strategies can be adopted to achieve this balance:

  • Set Boundaries: Individuals should set defined boundaries between work and personal life, aiming to prevent work from encroaching on personal time.
  • Practice Time Management: Planning and executing the time effectively can improve productivity and minimize overtime hours.
  • Technology: Use the latest technology and tools that can automate and streamline work processes, reducing workload and freeing up time for T&E activities.
  • Flexibility: Seek out work arrangements that offer flexibility, such as telecommuting, part-time work, or job sharing; these increase productivity and enhance work-life balance.
  • Self-Care: Make time for self-care by engaging in activities such as meditation, exercise, hobbies, and socializing; these provide an outlet for relieving stress and promoting mental health.

The Bottom Line

While the desire to succeed is a universal trait, the pursuit of success should not come at the cost of health and personal life. By adopting strategies that promote work-life balance, individuals can achieve success without sacrificing their well-being.


  • Q: Why do people work so much?

    A: People work long hours due to various reasons such as financial rewards, societal expectations, job insecurity, and workload.

  • Q: What are the consequences of working long hours?

    A: Long working hours can lead to several negative health outcomes such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. It can also impact one’s personal and social life and result in stress, anxiety, and depression.

  • Q: What can individuals do to achieve work-life balance?

    A: Individuals can adopt strategies such as setting boundaries between work and personal life, practicing time management, using technology, seeking out flexibility arrangements, and prioritizing self-care.


  • Collinson, D., & Collinson, M. (2015). Rethinking work: Key debates in labour geography. Routledge.
  • Hepburn, A., & Potter, J. (2011). Why do people work hard?. In Passion, vitality, and foment (pp. 29-43). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Stephens, M. A. P. (2017). The pursuit of happiness: A self-report study on the relative contributions of hedonic and eudaimonic well-being facets to happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 18(6), 1663-1682.

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