If you have a job in the present challenging economic times, you are probably doing everything you can to hold on to it. If your employer asks you to put in 50 hours of work every week, you likely go further and put in 60 or more hours. You might think you are getting more done by working longer, but in fact every hour you put in over 40 hours a week is making you less productive, both in the short and long term. Studies have found that the “sweet spot” for optimum productivity is 40 hours a week. Here are ten specific reasons you should stop working long hours today if you want to maintain optimum productivity.
1. Reduced productivity
Long work hours are often counterproductive. Ford Motor Company proved this in the 1990s through a series of studies that showed every additional 20 hours of work above the recommended 40 hours resulted in an increase in productivity only for three to four weeks before productivity turned negative. If you consistently work long hours, you get burned out and inevitably start falling behind in your duties. Productivity declines and you have to spend more hours trying to catch up on neglected tasks.
2. Increased fatigue
Fatigue sets in when you work extended hours over a long period of time. Symptoms of fatigue from extended workdays include sleepiness, weariness, poor concentration, irritability and increased susceptibility to illness. These symptoms are a big hindrance to productivity. If you don’t stop and rest from work, fatigue will increase and become overwhelming.
3. Higher safety risks
When fatigue increases and you become overwhelmed from long workdays, your safety is at risk. Accidents and injuries are more likely to occur in the workplace. This safety hazard, while difficult to clearly support with scientific evidence because fatigue levels are not easy to measure and quantify, is a logical concern that you should not ignore.
4. Neglected social life
You will find it difficult to maintain a healthy social life when you work 60 or more hours a week. Free time to spend with family and close friends is not adequate with this work schedule. Extended work hours can also reduce the quality of your life by conflicting with quality time for family and time for other responsibilities and needs outside work. Stop working long hours and get a life outside of work.
5. More stress
Odds are when you work long hours you are doing it at the expense of not only your family and close friends, but also your diet, exercise routine and sanity. The more you try to prove you are a passionate and productive team player at work, the more you get forgotten by your kids, spouse and dog; and the more your mind registers stress.
6. Musculoskeletal damage
Repetitive work when sustained in awkward postures increases the risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) that damage the body’s muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons and nerves. Avoid extended work hours to give your body sufficient time to recover and repair itself each day, otherwise your muscles might just buckle under work pressure.
7. Ergonomic hazards
Depending on where you work, lengthened work hours can expose you to serious ergonomic hazards like chemicals, radiation, vibration, noise, and extreme temperatures. Exposure to these ergonomic hazards can have serious health implications that you are better off avoiding by shortening your workday.
8. Heart attack
The risk of heart disease increases markedly by 67% for people who work long hours compared to people who work the standard 7-8 hours a day, according to a report by The University College London. Although a number of underlying factors like high blood pressure may make a difference, working long hours does not help your heart. Professor Stephen Holgate of the Medical Research Council says: “This study should make us think twice about the old adage ‘hard work won’t kill you‘.”
9. Brain damage
Another report, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, found middle-aged workers who clock upwards of 55 hours a week have poorer mental skills, including short-term memory and reduced ability to recall words, than those who work fewer than 41 hours. The study suggests that prolonged time at work can cause long-term brain damage or dementia. It is not clear why working long hours has an adverse effect on the brain, but this study should give pause for thought to workaholics.
10. Risk of obesity
Yet another study, by researchers at the University of Maryland School, reported that demanding work schedules can contribute to obesity. Lead researcher Nicole Au, who led a similar study at Monash University in Australia, said, “Extended work hours may reduce the time spent preparing home-cooked meals, exercising and sleeping, which are risk factors for obesity.”
Admittedly, some of these associations between extended work hours, health and safety concerns are not conclusive. However, getting off the 40-plus-hour-a-week treadmill now is definitely a better habit for your overall well-being and productivity.