Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

Are you suffering from Competitive Work Late Syndrome?

getty 95871490smaller .jpg

Feel lazy if you leave the office on time? Get a twinge of achievement when you’re the last one? It could be a case of Competitive Work Late Syndrome.

Daisy Wilson* loves those days when her work finishes on time. But something stops the 27-year-old PR grabbing her bag and heading for the door. The rest of her team. “When I look around and see them all still sitting there, I’m frozen, I just can’t leave. It’s a mixture of fear and guilt, a voice in my head tells me that they’ll think I’m lazy and shirking, even though my work is done.”

She admits these daily extra hours are completely unproductive. “But leaving the office becomes a threshold. I just won’t be, can’t be, the first person to cross it.”

Daisy is suffering from Competitive Work Late Syndrome. She’s not the only one. It’s being played out in offices across the UK; women welded to their desks, trapped by the idea that working hard means working excessively long hours.

''Busy now means you’re important, it means you matter.''

British women work the longest hours in Europe, with one in six Londoners putting in more than 48 hours a week. Life coach Carole Ann Rice says, “If you work in an office where the culture is one of very long hours, it is difficult to break free of those expectations.”

Why is it happening? Rice believes we revere being busy, associating it with success. “Busy now means you’re important, that you matter, that you’re productive.”

Women are particularly prone to CWLS. “Women worry about what other people think about them far more than men. We want to please by going that extra mile.” Psychologist Mamta Bhatia agrees. “Women like to gain approval and be recognised for their contribution. Physical presence has become shorthand for achievement.”

Mamta also points to our quest for perfection. “There is an innate desire in women to get things right. For many women it motivates them.” And when they come across a work colleague who is also striving to be perfect? “We want to be better than her.”

But it can be beaten. CWLS suffered Laura Bolton* took time out to travel and returned to work with a new perspective. “I had blamed my workload for my long hours but realised I’d been creating the situation myself. I saw other people leave at five and finally accepted that the roof won’t fall in if I do the same.”

Leaving on time has completely changed the way she feels about her work. “I’m happier, healthier and more productive now. I am well rested so go in with a clearer mind. I’m still driven but in a more healthy way. It’s the best thing I ever did.”

  • Names have been changed

Photo: Getty Images

Related

75941291crop.jpg

Make maternity leave work for you

corbis 42-20675990.jpg

Does it pay to be a bitch?

Lucy Mangan 2.jpg

Lucy Mangan: How to be a columnist

More

“Why I opted out of reconstruction after my double mastectomy”

Breast cancer survivor Jeanne Paul says many don’t understand her choice

by Amy Swales
21 Aug 2017

Carpool Karaoke gets a Game of Thrones makeover

The Starks are in town

by Amy Swales
21 Aug 2017

How the solar eclipse could completely transform your life

An astrologer tells us how to tap into the ‘magical powers’ of tonight’s eclipse

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Aug 2017

Lidl is selling £3.33 bottles of prosecco – but there’s a catch

Bring on the bubbles

by Megan Murray
21 Aug 2017

Singer stops concert to expertly shame man for sexual assault

“It is not your f**king body and you do not f**king grab at someone!”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Aug 2017

Why that Game of Thrones infertility storyline is so very important

This article contains spoilers, obviously

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Aug 2017

“I’m child-free, not childless – why the difference matters”

One writer on how our language shames women who choose not to procreate

21 Aug 2017

High school boys support female students against sexist dress code

And this is how it’s done

by Megan Murray
21 Aug 2017

Why people are posting cat photos in response to the Barcelona attacks

There’s a reason behind the influx of felines online

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Aug 2017

The deadly secret hidden within that creepy Game of Thrones hug

Spoilers are coming…

by Kayleigh Dray
18 Aug 2017