How Much is Too Much? Balancing The Hours Game at Work

Businessman on PhoneThough we may derive a certain amount of pride and achievement from the amount of hours we work and our dedication to our careers, the phrase “work smarter, not harder” may have more scientific evidence backing it than you’d think.

Today, we’ll look at the effects on our health of working different collections of weekly hours and how long working weeks may affect employer’s balance sheets in addition to employee’s health.

A Tragic Tale of Working Overtime

An advertising company in Japan has reformed its HR policy after an employee suicide. It’s no secret that Japanese workers grind out some of the longest working weeks and tragically, 24 year old Matsuri Takahashi took her own life after working 105 hours of overtime and weekends.

HR Grapevine has more details on the tragedy and the company’s response to stop its employees from working too much.

This raises the question though, how much is too much? And how do companies ensure they don’t overload their workers?

The Impact of Overtime on Our Health

Inc reported on the health impact working various amounts of overtime has on our health. This includes (based on our estimation of an average working week being 40 hours):

Working 50 Hours: Little productive work occurs after 50 hours per week. Individuals working 11 hours or more of overtime have an increased depression risk.

Working 60 Hours: Those working 60 hours per week have a 23% higher injury hazard rate. Productivity declines by as much as 25% in white collar jobs where workers put in 60 hours or more.

Other Effects of Overtime: With an overtime rate of 15.4% fatigue-related problems are severe. In companies with high overtime 54% have absentee rates above 9%.

Many of these problems tie in with stress which leads to hormonal inbalances, raised cortisol levels, disrupted sleep and appetite, blood pressure, immune function, memory, cognition and mood.

What We Think

The ill health effects derived from a desire to do our best at work are shocking – and we hope people realise that working a huge number of weekly hours might do more damage to their productivity and personal health than working within the guidelines of HR policy.