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« Professional Coach James Dolan Advises Lawyers to Work--and Live--in the Present Moment | Main | Dr. Paul Lanthois Advises Busy Professionals to Achieve "Work-Wife" (or "Work-Husband") Balance »

Lack of Work-life Balance Can Be Fatal

Karoshi.  Have you seen that word before?  Karoshi is a Japanese word that describes sudden death from overworking.  Recently, The Juggle reported the sad story of a 45-year-old Toyota engineer who died in 2006 from heart disease.  The man "had been traveling and working extremely long hours, including an average of 80 hours of overtime a month in the months before his death."  The deceased engineer's family had sought to collect benefits from his insurance, and a Japanese labor board ruled last month that the engineer had worked himself to death.

While lawyers in English-speaking lands may seem half a world away from the intense pressures of the automobile manufacturing industry in a country known for its intense dedication to company loyalty and working long hours, attorneys face comparable pressures dressed in different disguises.  For example, The Juggle's blog entry points out that:

  • technological tethers like wireless devices and laptop computers can keep us connected to our work 24x7, with little opportunity to escape from job-related stress;
  • the ability to be working during every waking moment can make us feel guilty for not being "productive" all the time; and
  • economic pressures intensify our compulsion to work harder, if only to keep our jobs in an uncertain economy where unemployment is rising.

It is now common knowledge that stress can harm our health.  High levels of stress can increase our risk for heart disease and many other illnesses.  As the subtitle to The Juggle's blog entry asks, are we working ourselves to death?

The comments below the blog post offer a number of perspectives about this phenomenon, many of them from lawyers.

Karoshi--death caused by working excessively--is a complex problem.  However, looking at some of our ideas for managing stress may help attorneys re-balance their personal and professional lives to avoid facing such serious, and final, effects of working too much.

By Steve Imparl, guest blogger

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