Why 50- Hour Work Weeks Are Not Healthy

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Has the new normal of how we work caused an imbalance in our work-life? I wanted to share some interesting information that I came across along with some of my own thoughts on this question. I hope that you find this article helpful and please feel free to share it with anyone that you feel might benefit from reading it.

Years ago, working exactly 40 hours per week, 9 to 5, Monday through Friday was standard for most office employees. Today, this schedule is still fairly common, but workers are often logging far more than their expected 8 hours a day.

One survey that I read said that 87% of employees work more than 40 hours per week, with nearly one-quarter of all respondents putting in more than 50 hours per week. But these workers are not necessarily staying late in the office: About 80% of survey respondents said they bring work home with them one or more days per week, including 15% whose work-related activities bleed into their weekends.

The always-on, constantly connected environment in which today’s workers live has shaped this trend of longer hours and blurred lines between work and personal time. But just because employees can work 24/7 doesn’t mean they want to: More than 70% of survey respondents admitted they were unhappy with the number of hours they’re working, and wish they had more time for personal activities such as exercising, spending time with family and friends, pursuing hobbies, and running errands.

To combat diminishing personal time, employees can find little ways to be more efficient in the office and cut down on the work they need to take home. With our current situation and most of us working from home still, these tips can help draw the line between work and personal time as well.

  • To-do lists
  • Bringing lunch to work
  • Drinking coffee
  • Avoiding meetings
  • Not using social media
  • Taking breaks
  • Going for a walk
  • Stop and stretch
  • Telecommuting
  • Not multitasking

Ultimately, though, it’s up to employers to let their workers know it’s OK to disconnect. However, not all employers are doing so.

Drawbacks to working 50 hours a week

Unfairness

Aside from the obvious impact on employees’ free time, there are other, less apparent downsides to people overworking, whether voluntarily or reluctantly. Overworked managers treat their employees less fairly than managers who have less-demanding workloads. Because fairness is not a simple task, managers need sufficient time in their day to attend to it, and it can easily slip through the cracks.

Add that to the fact that overwork reduces productivity. If organizations want to empower their managers and employees to do their best work, they may need to encourage them to spend less time in the office, rather than more.

Physical effects of overwork

The toll of working too much is not limited to managers; it has consequences for all workers. The results can be seen in physical and emotional maladies including heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

According to an article I read recently the increased risk of such diseases is due to the effect of cortisol that is released by your body in response to the added stress. The same article pointed out that when people work too hard, they may try to relax in unhealthy ways, such as by drinking too much, which in turn can cause even more health problems.

Aside from stress-related issues, working too much can cause other physical problems, depending on the type of work you do. Standing too long can cause foot problems, while sitting too much may lead to back issues.

Work addiction

Some people truly love their work and can work 12-hour days with no ill effects. But for others, the grip of work is more insidious – it is an obsession, even an addiction. It can be difficult for a casual observer to determine the difference, but a professional can distinguish between healthy fascination and unhealthy compulsion.