We've all seen the motivational posters, listened to the greats and their motivational speeches, seen the books (maybe even read them), musical artists have songs on working hard, and we've read the bible's stance; But is there a fine between this kind of hard work and just working yourself to death?
A person who works 55 hours or more per week has a 33 percent greater risk of having a stroke and a 13 percent increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, compared to colleagues with a standard 35- to 40-hour work week, according to a large analysis published in The Lancet.
New research from the U.K. suggests that employees who work more than 48 hours per week are more likely to engage in risky alcohol consumption than those who work standard weeks. Risky alcohol consumption is considered as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men. This amount of drinking is believed to increase risk of adverse health problems, including liver diseases, cancer, stroke, coronary heart disease, and mental disorders.
Elisabeth Kleppa and colleagues of the University of Bergen, Norway, analyzed data on work hours from a larger study of Norwegian men and women. Symptoms of anxiety and depression were assessed using a standard screening questionnaire. Anxiety and depression scores were compared for 1,350 workers who worked overtime, 41 to 100 hours per week; and approximately 9,000 workers who worked normal hours, 40 hours or less. Working overtime was associated with higher anxiety and depression scores among both men and women. The rate of questionnaire scores indicating “possible” depression increased from about nine percent for men with normal work hours to 12.5 percent for those who worked overtime.
So what do we do if we must work these crazy hours to get by?
Could you be experiencing job burnout?Ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you become cynical or critical at work?
- Do you drag yourself to work and have trouble getting started once you arrive?
- Have you become irritable or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Do you feel disillusioned about your job?
- Are you using food, drugs or alcohol to feel better or to simply not feel?
- Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
- Are you troubled by unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?
- Manage the stressors that contribute to job burnout. Once you've identified what's fueling your feelings of job burnout, you can make a plan to address the issues.
- Evaluate your options. Discuss specific concerns with your supervisor. Perhaps you can work together to change expectations or reach compromises or solutions. Is job sharing an option? What about telecommuting or flexing your time? Would it help to establish a mentoring relationship? What are the options for continuing education or professional development?
- Adjust your attitude. If you've become cynical at work, consider ways to improve your outlook. Rediscover enjoyable aspects of your work. Recognize co-workers for valuable contributions or a job well done. Take short breaks throughout the day. Spend time away from work doing things you enjoy.
- Seek support. Whether you reach out to co-workers, friends, loved ones or others, support and collaboration may help you cope with job stress and feelings of burnout. If you have access to an employee assistance program (EAP), take advantage of the available services.
- Assess your interests, skills and passions. An honest assessment can help you decide whether you should consider an alternative job, such as one that's less demanding or one that better matches your interests or core values.
- Get some exercise. Regular physical activity, like walking or biking, can help you to better deal with stress. It can also help get your mind off work and focus on something else.
The bottom line? Keep an open mind as you consider the options. Don't let a demanding or unrewarding job undermine your health.
American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM)
British Medical Journal
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