How working too much can be hazardous to your health
Every evening, it’s the same. You are determined to leave on time. Yet again, you find yourself finishing one more thing, answering one more email, or talking to one more co-worker. Or perhaps you spend a few hours every weekend catching up on your to-do list.
Either way, it adds up: Americans on average spend 47 hours a week at work, more than any other industrialized country. Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. Four in 10 Americans said they work more than 50 hours every week, with two in 10 working more than 60 hours.
Yet the research is clear: Long hours — working in the morning, evenings and weekends — is not only hard health-wise on the person doing all that extra work but it doesn’t pay off to the degree that workers and their organizations expect. John Pencavel of Stanford University is one of many researchers who have found that output falls sharply after a 50-hour work-week — even more sharply after 55 hours. Other studies show work weeks of 50 or more hours can lead to a variety of health issues. With that in mind, here are some goals you may want to consider:
Don’t work more than 10 hours each day. Several studies show that more than 10 hours of work a day dramatically increases your risk of cardiovascular and other health issues. One study concluded that working 10-plus hours each day results in a 60 percent increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Stop sitting so much. It’s difficult when you work in an office not to sit all day. But studies show that it’s hazardous to our health to sit for eight to ten hours a day. Make it a goal to stand up or walk around for several minutes once every half an hour or hour. Take a walk during your lunch hour, in the morning and/or in the evenings.
Schedule times to unplug from work. That means no work-related phone calls or email for specified times throughout the week. Consider making at least part of your weekend a time you don’t do any work. The key is to set specific times and stick with them — even if it’s only an hour at a time.
Take vacations. Americans take on average only 16 days of vacation each year, down from 20 days a year. More than half of all Americans do not take all of their vacation time each year. Studies show that vacation time — even if spent at home — help us recharge and boost our productivity. Take time off — and encourage your employees to do the same.