Working long hours and not having regular breaks could be having an impact on both your physical and mental health.
It is important to have equilibrium in life and not having a good work life balance can:
- negatively impact your sleep. The recommended level of sleep per night is seven to eight hours. Long commutes and an inability to switch off devices early enough in the evening can eat into this sleep time resulting in sleep deprivation, the short and long term effects of which can include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes.
- lead to a sedentary lifestyle. A study in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2012 by Virtanen et al describes how increased hours at work can increase the prevalence of coronary heart disease, approximately 40% excess risk of those who work long hours compared to those who don’t.
- increase the risk of musculoskeletal pain. Numerous studies have shown that working long hours in the same seated position can increase the risk of neck and lower back pain. Frequent breaks to get drinks, to walk to the photocopying machine or taking a short walk at lunch time can remove some of the risk.
- increase the likelihood of excessive alcohol consumption as a means to reduce stress.
- lead to individuals ignoring health warning signs, which can delay treatment.
Longer hours in work do not equate to higher productivity, in fact, the opposite is quite often true. Humans are not able to concentrate for long periods of time. A study in 2014 by Pencavel found that those who worked 70 hours a week didn’t get as much work done as those peers who worked 56 hours. The report also highlighted how those who attempt to multi task often get less done. It suggested the best way to get things done was to focus on your top three priorities each day. Focusing on time management and organisation can help with productivity and efficiency.
What are the solutions?
- Everyone needs to take personal responsibility for work-life balance. Make it a New Year’s resolution for 2018 to speak up when work demands become too much. Unless your employers are aware of your pressures they cannot offer support.
- Work SMART not long. Prioritise and allocate time for each task and don’t get caught up in less productive activities.
- Take proper breaks at work, giving yourself at least a half hour for lunch and get out of the work place if you can.
- Try not to take work home with you. If you do, ensure you have an environment where you can keep it separate.
- Seriously consider the link between work stress and mental health. Make an attempt to reduce stress, utilise exercise, yoga, relaxation and hobbies.
- Recognise your own protective factors, such as exercise, and make sure you spend your spare time doing these.
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