When your car starts making grinding sounds, a light or two flickers, you see that the gas tank is empty, or you hear the tire pop, it usually means that you have already ignored a few issues leading up to this moment.
If you are taking care of your car, it will take care of you for years to come. The same goes for your body and your mind.
One of the prominent issues of our time is the problem of overworking. While working is a part of life, constant and consistent overworking can be detrimental to your overall health and wellbeing both in the immediate now and in the distant future.
In layman’s terms, overworking means that you are working more than you can handle. You could be putting in more hours at one or more jobs than is sustainable, taking on more physical/mental labor than is healthy for your body, or overburdening yourself with your day job and after-work responsibilities, like taking care of an ailing family member.
While every job has its moments of frenzy, these stretches are not healthy to maintain over the long run.
Just like with your car, there are many ways you can tell whether you are overworking yourself or an employee is overworked. Be sure to keep an eye out for the following symptoms so you can intervene as soon as possible and avoid health issues for yourself or prevent lost work from your employees.
Do you often feel sick, or do you have regular headaches? When you don’t have enough downtime after work or if you continue to work while sick, your mind and your body don’t have enough time to repair itself. Consistent sickness leads to a suppressed immune system, which means you have an increased probability of getting sick again.
Sleeplessness and insomnia are common signs of overworking, and they usually appear when you are always worrying about work. Perhaps you are staying up late to get work done, or you have a hard time winding down because of your extended screen time. Either way, this lack of sleep can not only disrupt your sleep cycle but can leave you feeling exhausted and unable to perform your duties at your full capacity.
Excess anger, anxiety, depression, general irritability, or sadness in you or one of your employees can definitely be a sign of overworking. If your employee is generally affable and kind but has started overreacting or seems more negative lately, they may be overworking themselves either at work or at home. These different mood swings can also be attributed to a loss of sleep, which, as mentioned above, is a potential sign of overworking.
It should come to no surprise that sickness, lack of sleep, and mood swings contribute to forgetfulness and errors at work and or low productivity. If you find yourself working longer hours but not getting as much done as before or the quality of work you are turning in isn’t as good, you may be burning the candle at both ends. If you are an employer, be sure to check in on your employees to make sure they are getting the help they need so your business doesn’t suffer.
An obvious answer to this question is perhaps, “My boss says so,” or “I have to make my hours to pay my bills.” This is all very, and unfortunately, true. In addition, technological advances, while wonderful, have kept us connected to our workplaces even more. Studies have shown that over 50% of people check their work emails on the weekend, and approximately 35% of people check their email while on vacation. Even worse, some employers or clients demand your attention during the weekend or while on vacation because we are so accessible through our various devices.
You would think that with our technology we would have eliminated a lot of our work and we would all have more free time on our hands, but we seem to be pushing even harder to keep up with the global economy and our company’s competitors. We are constantly connected, continually stressed, and consistently getting sick.
As mentioned before, overworking can lead to many mental and physical issues that you may experience at the moment, but what are the long-term consequences of overworking?
One of the more apparent issues with long-term overworking is the impact that it has on your heart. In 2010, a UCL study monitored 10,308 office workers, ages 35-55, over 11 years. The research concluded that consistently working three to four hours overtime was directly connected to a 60% increase of heart-related diseases or episodes, including non-fatal heart attacks, CHD, and angina.
In Japan, there is a medical condition called “karoshi” that quite literally means “death by overworking.” This diagnosis is given when the sudden death of an employee is directly tied to stress at work. These deaths can include but are not limited to heart attacks, strokes, or suicides. Because of the karoshi death tolls, many Japanese companies started to change their policies to restrict certain types of overtime and to allow their employees to leave work early to take care of their family, thus preventing the unnecessary stress of balancing work and personal life.
The consistent sickness, anxiety, stress, and depression you face when overworking could literally be killing you. Don’t overwork yourself.
Of course, we depend on our jobs for our basic survival, or part of our job may be taking care of children or ailing family members. It’s much easier to say, “I will stop overworking myself” or “I will stop overworking my body” than actually to do it. While all of these steps may not be practical for your life, try to implement at least one into your schedule so you can start the healing process.
If you work freelance or you have a demanding job with several clients, it is imperative to set boundaries. This could include not checking emails on weekends, setting precise working hours, or only taking on a certain number of projects at a time. Be sure to communicate these boundaries with your clients since they can’t respect them if they don’t know about them. Of course, use your discretion as to what these boundaries should be and if/when there should be exceptions, but if you are clear and strict with what you will and will not do, your clients will get used to it. And more than likely, you’ll start producing even better products/services.
When you are able, do your best not to take your work home with you. Finish what you can in the office, and if things can be done tomorrow, leave them for the next day and enjoy your evening. Also, take your vacation time, stay home when sick, and, just like the first tip, avoid checking your emails on the weekend. Work will still be there on Monday, and more than likely, the world will not explode if you wait until then.
In general, we can all agree that exercise is good for your health. Not only do you become stronger, but it can help boost your immune system and your metabolism. Also, taking a quick walk around the office or the home can energize you enough so you can continue working efficiently, which in turn may help get you out of the office on time.
Like setting boundaries or ensuring your work-life balance, this tip is about taking some time for yourself during the workday. Even taking fifteen minutes to enjoy your food, breathe, or chat with your coworkers can be a massive boost to your mood.
More than likely, your manager wants you to be the best worker you can be, so speaking to them about how you are feeling can start a conversation on how to improve your working conditions. Perhaps you can start focusing on more critical issues, and you can hand off less essential responsibilities to a different coworker or an intern. As for HR, they also want to make sure that you are at your best, and they also want to make sure they are following all federal laws. Therefore, if your manager is giving you too much work or you are working too much overtime, HR will be able to start the process of helping you prioritize your work or hiring an extra worker.
Whether your current employer is not flexible on working hours, refuses to hire another worker, or if you are working several part-time or full-time jobs to pay the bills, it may be time to find a new place of employment. This can be one of the scariest and hardest tips to implement, but if you are willing to step outside your comfort zone and meaningful change, it could help you live a happier life in the long run.
Hard work is good for you and is a part of this earthly existence, but the constant working body will eventually give up. Even in times of chaos, be sure to prioritize your health so you can live a long and happy life.
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