What to Do About Long Hours on the Job

How much time should I devote to my work? My job requires me to put in long hours every week. As a result I'm not able to give as much attention to other things — including my family — as I'd like. In your opinion, how much time is too much time for work? Do you suggest I look for another job?

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that we don’t have a hard-and-fast answer for this question. Focus on the Family can’t tell you where to work or exactly how many hours to devote to your occupation. We don’t have a simple formula for balancing business affairs with family life. These are questions you need to resolve by praying and listening to God’s voice. You should also discuss your needs and priorities with your spouse and seek the counsel of close friends. With the help of those who really care about you, try to work through your personal commitments and priorities in light of biblical principles.

In a case like this it can be helpful to remember that God has granted us tremendous liberty in Christ (Galatians 5:1). As a Christian, you aren’t called to slavish legalism but to freedom and discovery. It’s not a matter of obeying rules or mapping out a tightly constructed schedule. Instead, it’s about walking by faith and living in the Spirit. Among other things, that means learning by trial and error how to fulfill your unique God-given calling while loving others with the selfless love of Christ.

Are your long hours having a damaging effect on your marriage, your family, your health, or your relationships with others? This is the question you need to ask yourself. Seek the Lord’s guidance and try to answer it honestly. If you decide that you really are working too much, you’ll have to stop and figure out how you got into this situation. Ask yourself if there’s a feasible way out. Do you really have to spend this much time on the job? What is it that’s driving you? Is it your employer’s demands or your own pressing financial needs? If the latter, can you find other ways of balancing the budget? Can you cut costs? Downscale your lifestyle? Eliminate materialistic goals and values?

That last question brings us back to the issue of priorities. By getting a handle on what matters most to you, you can clear the air of a lot of confusion. When you know your priorities, you can eliminate non-essentials. This will help you gain a sense of focus and purpose. Rather than accepting your situation at face value, train yourself to listen to the Spirit. Try to discern what He wants you to do. Don’t be defined by externals. Instead, define yourself in terms of God’s principles and God’s plan for your life. It’s a question of learning how to channel your time and energy into the fulfillment of your own unique calling.

Maybe you don’t think this advice fits your situation. Perhaps you believe that your priorities are in order. Maybe you’re working long hours solely because of the demands of an unreasonable boss. If so, you may want to start thinking about looking for a new position. That’s not something to be undertaken lightly, of course, especially in today’s challenging economy. Still, if you’re feeling pressured, unhappy in your work, and deprived of meaningful relationships at home, it might be time to step out in faith and take some risks. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life hating what you’re doing.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you evaluate your current occupation and consider the possibility of looking for a new job. When trying to decide if you’re cut out for a certain profession, ask yourself the following three questions: 1) Do I have a passion for this kind of work? 2) Do I possess the required background and skills? And 3) Do I feel called to do this? If you can say “yes” to all three, then go for it. There’s an excellent chance that you’ll find success and fulfillment along that path.

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these ideas at greater length, call us. Our staff counselors would consider it a privilege to speak with you over the phone for a free consultation.


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