The economy is still rather shaky, and so are most people’s job hopes. As a result, employers are having their employees work more and longer hours than ever, and employees are sucking it up for fear of losing their jobs in an increasingly competitive market. And it’s taking major tolls on employees’ health. Remember that Bank Of America intern who died on the job?
Experts say it’s probably really rare for anything that dire to go down, but working too many hours without a break can still wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. Ken Matos of the Families and Work Institute explained, “While dropping over dead at one’s desk is likely to be a rare event, experiencing negative health consequences and reduced lifespans, as a result of decades intense work lives with little opportunity for regular recovery, is a more likely possibility.”
Need more expert testimonials that you need to get away from your damn desk? The American Journal of Epidemiology said the following about overworking without breaks: “Long working hours have been found to be associated with cardiovascular and immunologic reactions, reduced sleep duration, unhealthy lifestyle, and adverse health outcomes, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, subjective health complaints, fatigue, and depression … There is increasing evidence to suggest the importance of midlife risk factors for later dementia. Furthermore, the link between cognitive impairment and later life dementia is clearly established.”
Matos says that employers who use overtime as an expression of loyalty are partially to blame for this. And that sucks, because overtime and overworking doesn’t mean your productivity improves. In fact, it’s often the opposite.
“Organizations can develop a culture that focuses on the effort expended rather than the quality provided. I call these cultures of self-sacrifice, where employee value is measured not by how productive they are but by how much time and personal sacrifices they need to make to complete their work,” Matos revealed. “In such cultures the employee who stays later is valued more even if the quality of work produced is not different from an employee who left earlier.”
The ultimate motivator for overworking and binge working? “Fear can drive people to overwork,” Matos said. ” Fear shuts down open and honest communication which is necessary to creating an innovative and responsive workplace.”
If you’re being overworked, examine your own productivity and have a talk with your boss. If he or she is still insisting you work extra hours, be sure you’re compensated accordingly–and use that extra income to take a mental health day or five. You deserve it.