- Friday, 21 March 2014 08:59
Quote of the week: “Employee of the month is a good example of how somebody can be both a winner and a loser at the same time.” Demetri Martin
The Bane of Binge Working
There was an article recently published in Forbes magazine about the health hazards of employees working beyond 8 hours per day and over 60 hours per week. Family, friends and health professionals are reporting signs of stress at the very least, and even death at its extremes, of employees who “binge work.” Heart disease and psychological stress are the leading causes of medical complications.
Workers slogging through relentless overtime hours often submit to unhealthy habits of junk-eating, over-eating, excessive drinking, e.g., coffee to keep going and alcohol before bedtime, and foregoing any form of exercise that could aid in releasing stress. This becomes a precursor to immune system imbalances, exhaustion, and depression, which results in more absenteeism. In some case studies, researchers concluded that binge working creates diminishing returns in productivity and that both employees and companies are better off if staff worked a regular 40 hour week.
Some company cultures actively promote the practice of binge working as a sort of red badge of honor, courage and persistence. And staff who work themselves into the ground are given promotions to positions of greater responsibility, which compels them to work even more hours. Does being employee of the year trump the long-term health consequences, or even death?
Death in this regard is no exaggeration. Last year there was a relatively young woman of 31 years who died after working a 30 hour shift non-stop at her call center. The younger generation wants to make an impression and build a future with their employer, which can lead to one-upmanship with their co-workers in logging long hours. Those in the twilight of their careers simply cannot keep up, and if not failing in their health are forced to early retirement, depriving the younger ones of their guidance, experience and expertise.
When both employee and employer step back and examine this issue from a broader purview, the question of work/life balance comes into play, and striving for happiness. The cultural conditioning of working hard enough and making “X” amounts of money to ultimately become happy typically puts one in striving mode at all times, and seldom in being happy where they are in life now. Quality time for self, family and friends is as important as work, and one can nourish the other. If this time is used consciously and creatively, it revitalizes the body, mind and spirit in a way that prepares for the work day with more energy. For the employer, commitment and encouragement with policies in place to monitor and enforce working hours is called for to support staff well-being, along with the company bottom line.
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