"What toll does it take, over time, if you get too little sleep; skip breakfast or settle for something unhealthy; struggle with a relentlessly challenging commute; attend meeting after meeting with no breaks in between; pump yourself up through the day with multiple cups of coffee or sugary snacks; deal with hundreds of emails that accumulate in your inbox; remain at your desk for lunch if you eat lunch at all; push through fatigue in the afternoon; head home at night feeling exhausted, but continue to check email through the evening; work on the weekends; and limit your vacations to no more than a week or two, if you vacation at all? ... It's not good for us, and it's not good for companies."
I know a lot of people who've experienced this, and not working in some High Powered Supa Corporation! either. In my opinion, though, if the ability to work in a reasonable manner doesn't come from the top, then your only choices are (besides continuing) to be a mediocre worker, or to find another job. Of course, you can't really go from being a top performer to a mediocre one--bosses notice things like that. As opposed to the person who was mediocre all along, and, well, keeps their job. ;-)
And I've heard every story in the book, told to perpetuate this culture. Like "Well, X person works regular hours and manages to be a high performer." (And then you talk to X and find out they're in the same boat and also burning out.) Or if someone says they can't continue this pace now that they have a family: "I so understand... though VP X has 5 kids and has no trouble balancing work and personal life." (As if they actually know anything about the VP's personal life.)
Yes, you can work a certain amount of long hours if the job is your passion, or it's your company. When I'm writing a novel I can happily work crazy hours. But there's an expectation that if you want to succeed at work, the average manager / worker has to match the energy, passion and dedication of that small handful of people for whom this is a Dream Job.
Here's some of the 159 comments from the article: (I read them so you don't have to!)
"6 years, working 80+ hours, sleeping 42, eating irregularly, exercising about 0.5 & hobbies 1 ... Mental math calc's (mult/div) began requiring increasing effort then finally a calculator; Creativity/problem solving dried out; Patch-fixes (a long sleep, gym visit, night on the town) ceased to recharge me; My excellent physical health began to deteriorate rapidly; I was becoming a not very kind person. Finally with my performance tanking, my contract wasn't continued."
"Interesting, what you said about your math skills. I distinctly remember taking my first corporate job (as an editor, ironically) and feeling like my vocabulary and ability to read and write were deteriorating."
"Same happened to me! As a sub-editor, the three things I need are: excellent eyesight, dependable concentration, perfect spelling/grammar. Last year, when I was working six days a week, I started to lose all of them. That was a bit of a wake-up call."
"Regarding expense to relationships, when I hit my fifth anniversary at a large tech company, I got a commemorative item, along with a card to give to my spouse. I still have it. It reads: "We recognize the support you have provided and the sacrifices you have made during your partner's employment with XXXX. We'd like to take this opportunity to extend our sincerest thanks." This is the stuff Dilbert comics are made of."
"I have also realized that how companies take advantage of passionate employees and always ask for more than they physically and mentally should give by hooking them with bates, and if something happens to the employee he/she just becomes a statistic however the companies move on and keep adding new blood to fuel their fire."
"I think we don't realise that we become slowly addicted to this life style. Our self worth becomes tided not only to what we have but by how many people are demanding our time, relying on us, emailing us - needing us."
"World class athletes push themselves. World class athletes also take many breaks, focus on their diet, and their overall physical and emotional well being."