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How All That Overtime Could Be Harming Your Health

Posted February 11, 2020, by Jenny

Work-life balance seems to be the golden grail that everyone is striving for. But our goals of making it home for dinner with the kids tend to be overshadowed by the need to impress our bosses, meet deadlines, ensure job security and keep up with a fast-paced society that is constantly moving onto the next thing.

Our personal life often seems like the perfect sacrifice to make to ensure financial security, but have you ever stepped back to think about how this overtime is affecting your health? Turns out, it can be very damaging and may not be the trade-off you once thought it was.

Work-Life Balance

First things first, how do you know if you are working too much? Some people might say anything outside the regular 9 to 5 hours is too much and you should cut back to find that balance, but it is important to note that everyone is different. You need to find out what is too much for you, and we are here to help.

Here are some ways to tell if you are working too much:

Productivity is taking a dip

While once you were able to smash out two reports and handle two client meetings all before the lunch bell sounded, you have suddenly found yourself barely able to get through one report and the meetings are much less efficient than they used to be. 

Did you know, a Stanford research paper actually found that those working 70 hours a week didn’t get more done than people working 56 hours. The truth is, we aren’t designed to be productive for 24 hours a day, we all have limits. You need to find yours and the best way to do this is by taking a look at the quality of your work when overdoing it and pairing back. Have you heard the saying: work smarter, not harder?  This definitely applies in this situation.

Not enough sleep

This one might seem obvious, but some people seem to think if they push through to a less busy time at work they can make do with the lack of sleep. But lack of sleep affects you in so many different ways, and can make you not only feel grumpy, but it can affect the quality of your work too. Getting more hours at night can actually lead to more productive hours at work in the day and create a good cycle. There are also plenty of negative health consequences that come from lack of sleep, so be sure to give this area of your life the attention it needs.

You never see your family

Keep missing those soccer matches? Forgot your wife’s birthday? Haven’t seen your friends in months? Working overtime can lead to neglect in other areas of your life – other very important areas. Whether your other half has spoken up and let you know you are spending too much time at work, or you have started to notice your other commitments aren’t getting the attention they deserve, this is a sure sign that you are working too much.

Aching joints

Sitting down all down can take its toll on you. In fact, this is the reason we have seen an emergence of the standing desks. People are starting to realise how unhealthy it is to be sitting all day and making the switch. This is definitely a step in the right direction. If you are finding your back or neck is sore after a day at work, it is more than likely you are putting in too many hours. Make some time to get up, go for a walk, get some sunlight

What Are the Effects of Working Overtime?

So, you have found that you fall into one or maybe two or three of the categories above (or maybe even all of them). Basically, you are working too much. Don’t worry, you aren’t alone in this one.

Many people think it is worth it for that end goal. Whether you are looking for a promotion, trying to ensure you avoid redundancies that are taking place, have deadlines that need to be kept or so on and so on, there’s no denying it, there is often a very good reason in place for why you are putting in those overtime hours. There is so much pressure to perform these days, and with the risk of being out of a job or overlooked for a promotion looming over us, it is no wonder so many employees are driving themselves into the ground and are on the brink of burning out https://www.careerfaqs.com.au/news/news-and-views/7-signs-youre-burning-out just to try and keep up. 

The problem is, when making the decision to do these hours, most people don’t factor in their own health and the negative consequences it is having. The effects of long hours go far beyond losing sleep at night. Here are just some of them.

Stroke

A 2018 French study found that working long hours can increase your risk of stroke. The study looked at 143,000 workers and found that those working 10 hour days or longer, had a 29 per cent increased risk of stroke. This is actually supported by a second study published in 2015 in Britain. The long hours increase your blood pressure, stress and inactivity levels and these are what combined can lead to an increased risk of stroke. 

Masked Hypertension

Masked hypertension is a form of high blood pressure that actually can appear as normal during a routine examination, but then outside the doctor’s office rises. According to a study in Quebec, those spending more than 49 hours in the office each week were 70% more likely to develop masked hypertension than those working 35 hours or less. It might be worth checking your blood pressure over a period of time with a tracked monitor to make sure your blood pressure isn’t being affected.

Physical Health 

Long hours leads to less movement and this can negatively impact your physical health. A 2017 study done by Columbia University Medical Center looked at almost 8,000 workers over the age of 45. It found that employees who were sedentary for more than 13 hours a day were twice as likely to die prematurely in comparison to those who were inactive for 11.5 hours. A huge difference!

Depression

Several studies have found a link between depression and long working hours. One recent study from the UK, found that regularly working more than 55 hours a week puts you at greater risk of developing depression, especially for women. Women often face the double burden of working long hours then added time completing domestic chores, which leads to their increased risk of mental health problems (of course many men also face this problem).

Sleep

As we know, working long hours leads to a lack of sleep, but other than feeling tired the next morning, lack of sleep can have many more negative effects. Getting the right amount of sleep at night (7 to 8 hours), lowers your risk of certain diseases, while reducing the chances of you making mistakes in the workplace that can lead to injury. There is also a link between sleep deprivation and high blood pressure. 

Make The Switch

If you are currently working long hours it might be time to take a step back and consider your health and what it is worth to you. Of course, this is an incredibly personal decision and the answer will be different for everyone, but it is definitely a question you should be asking yourself: are these long hours worth my health?

If you find you have no choice in the matter, then see if you can take some measures to lower your chances of negative health impacts. 

Here are some things that can help:

  • Try use a standing desk at work so you can move around while getting the work done. 
  • Make sure you go for a walk, jog, run, everyday, whether it is on your lunch break or before or after work.
  • Aim to get 7+ hours of sleep each night: you will be able to get the work done to a much higher standard the next day.
  • Fuel your body and mind with healthy snacks.
  • If you are feeling the mental load then talk to someone, you will find that you aren’t alone and there is help if you need it.
  • Try saying “no” more. Being a constant yes man/woman could be what got you in this pickle in the first place. Don’t overload your plate and when possible, try and break the yes ‘auto-response’ habit … see how here

Finding the right work-life balance isn’t just about being there for your family, it is also about being there for your health. The healthier you are, the more years you will be able to spend with your family. Take a look at your situation and see if there are any changes you can make to help you achieve the ideal work-life balance for you.

Jenny

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