Health Effects of Working Too Much

When not a habit, working extra hours can be productive, but for many workers, overworking is a recurrent practice. Even if we are aware of the importance of our health and of a balanced work-life. Recent research by ADP showed that employees in the United Kingdom work around 6.3 hours during the week without getting paid. In France, 12% of the workforce work over 10 unpaid hours per week.

It is fundamental to recognise overworking symptoms, such as working more than the legal limit of hours, working more time than your contract requires, experiencing physical issues and mental disorders related to work.

The worrying consequences of excessive workload and overworking are countless. Employees who work too much start feeling exhausted and stressed. This causes a decrease in work performance, productivity and can even contribute to health issues. A 2018 study from Perkbox showed that long working hours were the most common reason for work-related stress in the UK.

When we feel stressed, our blood pressure rises, which can damage our hearts and lead to heart attack symptoms. Overwork can also interfere with hormone levels. Women may notice changes in the period cycle, while men can experience a reduction in their levels of fertility. Working more time than we should in the same position also damages our physical health. It can cause back pain, posture problems and harm the eyes if it involves looking at electronic devices.

Stress and working too much can lead to sleep deprivation, which decreases work performance and enhances feelings of anxiety. It can also cause a lack of energy, which can stop us from having healthy habits, such as having a hobby or exercising.

Another disturbing consequence of working too much is death. It is what Jeffrey Pfeffer reveals in his book “Dying for a paycheck”. In the US, 150.000 deaths were caused by overworking. In China, it was over 1 million.

Overworking seems counterproductive, considering the many health effects. It will only cause a higher frequency of sick days. This means less productivity and more time off work; exactly what employees want to avoid when they overwork.

It is crucial that overworking does not become the new normal. Companies and workers should work together to tackle this issue. Breaks, reasonable working hours, regular vacations/ days off and learning to say no, are ways to avoid reaching the breaking point.

References:

  1. The Negative Effects of Working Too Much, May 2019, Productivity Theory
  2. Why Working Overtime Is Never A Good Idea, October 2018, Entrepreneur
  3. Health Consequences of Overwork, June 2019, CounterPunch