Life of a Startup: Workaholism

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If you want to know why so many startups develop unhealthy work habits or blatant workaholism. Look at the attitudes of their venture capital backers.

These feelings aren’t out of the ordinary. There’s ingrained mythology in the startup world that not only encourages but even demands, burnout. It’s the inevitable result of trying to cram a lifetime’s worth of effort into a venture fund’s condensed schedule.

We can certainly all agree that dedicated, hardworking employees are necessary for any job. Yet some people want you to become a workaholic, solely focused on fulfilling the company’s objective.

Workaholism, which is at the heart of this discussion, requires you to accept an infinite line of sacrifices. As if a full-fledged preoccupation with work, to the exclusion of all else, is the only way to success. It overlooks the fact that a person can be passionate, dedicated, and hardworking while also finding fulfillment in other areas of life.

That satisfaction, in fact, is likely to improve their vision in ways that are difficult to quantify. Workaholism’s dominating mentality, which is based on macho assumptions about what hard labour should entail. Conveniently ignores some uncomfortable facts. 

Venture Capitalism’s Influence on Workaholism

It’s easy to see how such a concept benefits moneymen who spread their bets far and wide and only succeed when unicorns appear. They’re going to want to make fairytale sacrifices, of course. It’s of little to no concern to them if a large number of them fall by the wayside. Exhausted from trying to hit that home run.

It’s possible that the entrepreneurs that agree to such demands asked for it. If you’re searching for millions to support your business, you should expect to be questioned about your vacations, weekends, hobbies, family time, and activities with the kids.

The stress, however, does not end with the individual who signs the term sheet. It begins to drip down. In fact, as it rolls down the hill, like a snowball collecting mass, it’s likely to intensify. Because once the millions have cleared and the headcount has been increased, it’s usually up to others to deliver on those astronomically high expectations.

The cunning businessman uses carrots to entice his employees. Organic, locally sourced, and, of course, delectably prepared by a skilled chef. I’m at work. AT THE OFFICE, along with all the other pampering and decadent perks. The goal is to make it appear as though employees chose this life for themselves as if they simply enjoy spending all of their waking hours at that dreaded workplace.

The Effects of Workaholism

Workaholism is costly, even if you believe that putting in long hours at work or on the road will definitely result in creativity and success. Burnout, on the other hand, is a common occurrence that may quickly escalate into a costly problem for a firm. A culture that encourages nonstop work also excludes many talented women. They may believe that in order to compete with their male colleagues, they must leave their children in daycare for nine hours so that a nanny or grandma (if they have such support) may put them to bed. Thus determining that workaholism is not for them.

A work culture that places a premium on how many hours you put in fosters the assumption that males, by nature, will be less concerned with spending quality time with their children, that it can be sacrificed if the money or opportunity is right. And, while this may be true for certain men and women. It is precisely how we end up with a workforce that is less than diverse.

The Evidence Against Workaholism

However, this will be despite the overwhelming research supporting the benefits of sleep, recovery, and long-term work habits. Whether you’re a pro basketball player like Kobe Bryant, whose off-season work regimen was restricted to just six hours every day. How about great philosophers and authors like Trollope, Dickens, and Darwin. Who all tried to do their work in little chunks of time and then have the rest of the day to themselves?

These athletes and writers were not willing to give up anything in comparison to their counterparts who may have put in more work, hours, or sacrifices. Their contributions to the world were not lessened in the least by their balanced attitude; on the contrary, they were amplified.

Because it focuses so much emphasis on time, our system for valuing work and judging the contributions of talented, dedicated individuals is dysfunctional. What we need are startups and business executives who are willing to acknowledge that a macho work culture holds them back and may even jeopardise their long-term success.

Businesses that are willing to try new approaches to assessing creativity and productivity are needed. Most importantly, senior leaders and mid-level managers must demonstrate to their staff on a daily basis that having outside interests, including families, is appropriate. Defending workaholism at this moment shows a complete lack of vision for what individuals can accomplish when they are happy at work and at home.

“Also, as an employee, it’s important to understand what you are working for. Most are working to fulfill someone else vision or dreams.”

— Blake Robbins (@blakeir) May 29, 2017


It’s time to reconsider why you put in so much effort in the first place. Sure, it’s satisfying to devote oneself to a purpose or calling. And it’s even better if you can make money doing it. However, if we cheerfully accept the notion that talented visionaries have the right to ask us to give up our complete humanity in the chase of fame and money. We are essentially trading innumerable priceless moments with our loved ones in order for someone else to become a legend.

It’s past time for us to make a better deal for ourselves. Workaholism is a serious issue. Not cheerleading for their misery. But treatment and coping techniques for people who are afflicted.

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