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Oct 2016

Are you working too hard? Thoughts on work life balance.


man with binders working late

We know work is a good thing. It is a way to be productive. Work is a way to utilize one’s talents and skills in a way that betters the society around them. Work is fulfilling, and hard work leads to a sense of accomplishment. However, when is work unhealthy? When does work transition from a physically and mentally stimulating experience to an experience that sucks the life out of you? Do we work too hard?

Why is too much work unhealthy?

Sure, putting in long hours at work is admirable. Sometimes, it is even necessary. However, there comes a point when workers need to put their health ahead of their income. Studies show that working excessively can have negative impacts on one’s health. In fact, compared to those who work 35-40 hours, individuals who work more than 55 hours a week have a 33% higher risk of a stroke. Additionally, working more than 55 hours is associated with a 13% increase in the chances of developing heart disease. Other studies have shown that working more than 55 hours a week correlates to increased chances for developing type-2 diabetes.

The effects of excessive work don’t stop there. There are many negative health effects associated with working too much. Those who work excessively have also experienced sleep disturbances, increased chances of alcoholism, as well as a dip in productivity. Not to mention, individuals who are overworked can experience elevated levels of stress. This can lead to increased obesity rates, decreased happiness, and higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Does America work too much?

Americans, on a global scale, work more hours collectively than almost any other country. In 2004, a study revealed that almost 50% of workers in America often felt overworked. Only 29% of workers said that they never experienced feelings of being overworked.  Many workers in the United States are recording work-weeks that climb over 50, 60 and sometimes 70 hours, whereas the average work week in Europe is under 40 hours per week. Certainly the economy in the United States is doing much better than economies across western Europe. However, is it coming at too steep a cost?

How to make ‘not working too much’ work.

Employers can help their employees cut down on time spent in the office. Additionally, employees can help themselves out by improving their work habits. If employees are experiencing poor health circumstances due to excessive work, then their work environment is not safe. It is crucial for employees to spend time at their jobs without experiencing negative consequences. So, how can this improve?

Employers need to be aware of the time their employees spend at work. Obviously, large corporations may need to do so through a division of responsibility. Regardless, employers need to promote a work environment that not only encourages hard-work, but also encourages workplace wellness. Improving office-options for nutrition, opportunities for exercise, and decreasing stress will all improve employee wellness.

Employees should take their wellness into their own hands. Nutrition, exercise, and sufficient rest can go a long way in improving productivity in the office, as well as quality of life. Improving efficiency and productivity can help employees streamline their workdays, and can result in fewer hours spent in the office. Look for little ways to improve organizational skills, cut back on water-cooler breaks, and work hard for 8 or 9 hours. Set goals, reach them, and don’t be afraid to call it quits for the day (within reason).

Overall, the balance of work and everyday life needs to be reviewed. Working too much is negatively effecting the health and wellness of workers across the United States. Working is healthy, but working too much is detrimental. Re-evaluate your workplace and your work habits. Don’t fall out of balance, and keep yourself healthy and safe.

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