The disastrous effects of long hours on your stress levels
Prolonged work hours are dominant due to labor shortages, too much work, workplace distractions, and overwork pay. In the US, full-time employees work an average of 47 hours weekly. It is nearly an entire workday longer than the standard 40-hour workweek and among the longest globally. This article assesses the impact of long working hours on employees’ well-being, from stress levels to health and social relations. Working overtime is an alarming health hazard, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, and obesity and hurting the quality of sleep and relationships.
Physical Consequences of Long Working Hours
Sleep deprivation is among the most significant effects of overtime work since long hours often cut into sleep time. It is not uncommon for employees to wake up early and sleep late to meet workloads. Overtime work also causes fatigue, increasing risk factors for cerebrocardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes, as well as an occupational injury. Failing to get adequate sleep negatively affects cognitive abilities and hurts physical health.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease
Numerous studies affirm that overworking hurts the heart. The World Health Organization contends that employees with long work hours –more than 55 hours weekly have a 17% higher probability of developing cardiovascular diseases. Also, a 2021 Canadian study revealed that extended work hours after a heart attack raises the chances of a second attack.
Higher Risk of Developing Other Heath Conditions
Apart from heart diseases, working overtime increases the likelihood of obesity, stroke, hypertension, and diabetes. Overworked employees have a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher probability of succumbing to ischemic heart disease. Long working hours can result in premature death, with stroke associated with overworking claiming the lives of 398,000 people worldwide in 2016.
Mental Health Consequences of Long Working Hours
Increased Stress Levels
Prolonged working hours raise stress levels in several ways. First, most people work overtime due to overwhelming workloads that are both physically and mentally strenuous. Second, extended working hours strain your lifestyle, and you miss out on naturally-destressing activities such as exercise, healthy eating, and family time.
Third, sleep deprivation from long working hours escalates stress because the body clock is out of sync. High-stress levels lead to many physical problems, including fatigue, headaches, muscle tension, digestive issues, low sex drive, and a suppressive immune system. Some people may resort to alcohol and drug abuse to deal with stress. While this gives a temporary escape, it creates more problems, and alcohol rehab is necessary.
Higher Risk of Anxiety and Depression
An article published in Frontiers in Psychology Journal shows the risk of depression, stress, and suicide increases with working hours. A high workload increases employees’ stress levels, resulting in depression and anxiety. After periods of overworking, many people develop burnout. They feel stressed, tired, irritable, and moody, progressively getting worse and hard to overcome.
Relationship Problems and Social Isolation
Long working hours mean you barely have time to interact with friends and family, engage in recreational activities, and even do self-care. You don’t have a life outside work, resulting in loneliness and social isolation. Parents and spouses may also not have time for their kids and partners, respectively.
Coping With Stress from Long Working Hours
Long work hours result in psychological stress and work stress. A stressful work environment can lead to sleep disturbances, headaches, and difficulty concentrating. In the long term, employees can develop numerous health conditions as well as unhealthy ways of relieving stress, such as overeating and drug abuse.
Consequently, employers and employees need to develop strategies for managing workplace stress. Below are a few suggestions.
- Taking breaks; breaks help you decompress, relax, and enjoy personal time
- Time management –puts you in control of tasks and offers direction when you have much to do, ensuring you don’t feel overwhelmed
- Prioritizing tasks –have a to-do list and schedule tasks based on urgency
- Developing healthy stress busters like exercising, engaging in hobbies, and getting quality sleep.
- Eating healthy foods –they promote physical and mental well-being
- Learning techniques like meditation, mindfulness, and deep breathing exercises for relieving stress
- Seeking support from colleagues or a mental health professional
- Addressing life problems -never use overwork to escape issues because it worsens them.
Importance of Work-Life Balance
An unending workday harms health, relationships, and quality of life. Work-life balance is vital and for a good reason. It increases productivity and engagement, enhances focus and personal growth, and improves mental health and well-being. employees with a good work-life balance are generally happier, healthier, more productive, and less stressed. They get fewer health issues, sick days, and burnout.
If you struggle with work-life balance, here are a few helpful tips. Firstly, establish boundaries between home and work. You can say no to homework, avoid checking emails after work, and unplug when with family. Second, create a routine of things to do after work, such as yoga, reading a book, attending a cooking class, or heading to the gym.
Third, change your life’s structure. Consider delegating some tasks, devote time to important things, and trim time-wasting activities and people. Fourth, set time for family and loved ones. Lastly, let go of the guilt. Sometimes you may feel guilty about being the first to leave the office or take a vacation. However, you deserve some time off work to be a better employee, parent, and spouse.
Long working hours are no longer a badge of honor due to their adverse effects on health, well-being, and productivity. They increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and hypertension, contribute to sleep deprivation and fatigue, and cause depression, anxiety, and stress. As such, it is crucial to devise tactics for managing stress and attaining a work-life balance for happier, healthier, satisfied, and stress-free employees. Also, it would help if you sought professional help when needed; it is a sign of strength, not weakness.