When Working a Crazy Number of Hours Is Not So Bad for Your Health

by Derek Loosvelt | September 11, 2017

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happy office worker

It's commonly thought that if you work too many hours, your health will suffer. However, according to a recent study, there could be conditions in which your health might not be compromised even if you're working 80-hour weeks.

And while the results showed a link between workaholism and stress-related physical complaints, only workaholics who described themselves as unengaged or feeling trapped in their work appeared at risk for more serious health disorders.
“That’s where the real surprise came up for us,” said Lieke ten Brummelhuis, an assistant professor at Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business near Vancouver and one of the study’s authors. “Engagement is the key.”
The lesson for employers, she said, is that they may be better off finding ways to help employees feel enthusiastic about their jobs rather than encouraging them to stay connected to work round the clock.
As for workaholics, they should ask themselves why they work so hard. “If it is out of love for the job, go for it,” she says. “If not, alarm bells need to sound.”

This is all pretty great news if you love what what you do and find yourself working a ridiculous number of hours each week; now, you might not have to have to worry too much about your health. Meanwhile, it's terrible news if you're not too excited about your current work situation and that situation is working you to the femur.

That said, maybe the good news for job-haters who work crazy hours is this study will give them some added incentive to find work they love, now that hating your job has been (sort of) proven to be not only a very big bummer but also very bad for your health.

 

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No matter if you love or hate your job, chances are you'll have to deal with some job stress at some point and could even face job burnout. And so, to deal with that stress and protect against burnout, you'll want to be on the lookout for things that'll severely stress you out (so you can try to avoid them), such as "unrealistic deadlines," "frequent scheduling conflicts or interruptions," "unpredictable schedules," and "added responsibility beyond the initial scope of [your] role while not being compensated for [it]." These things, according to MDs (that is, medical doctors, not managing directors), can result in outbursts against coworkers, loss of appetite, and loss of passion for activities that once brought you a lot of enjoyment.

Also, be on the lookout for these things that are sure signs of job burnout:

• Feeling emotionally drained and mentally unwell. Nausea. Being unable to sleep or constantly fighting sicknesses like head colds.
• Feeling alienated by your colleagues and bosses, feeling constantly underappreciated, or feeling ostracized by them.
• Feeling you are not personally achieving your best, or regularly “phoning it in.”

Identifiying burnout is important for employees and employers alike, since it can lead to mistakes at work and skipping out of work (absenteeism). As for how employees can deal with stress and prevent burnout, all of these things will go a long way: focused breathing, frequent breaks, ergonomic chairs, trusted mentors, and regular exercise. Also, there is this:

Jason Lang is the team leader of Workplace Health Programs within the C.D.C. He says that aside from good diet, exercise and sleep, there’s one surefire way to combat general malaise, job dissatisfaction, low morale and burnout.
“Laughter,” he said. “Find some humor in daily life.”

 

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This is no joke: If you want to go somewhere that won't stress or burn you out, you'll want to head to Basecamp, the web-based project management tool developer that's headquartered in Chicago. According to the firm's CEO, Jason Fried, in a recent Corner Office Q&A, the company doesn't encourage employees to work very long hours. Also, kindness, respect, and being nice seem to be among the most important aspects of its culture.

The other thing that is weird about the business world in general is the obsession with domination and winning and destroying and fighting. Why? What is that about? It doesn’t ring true with me at all. Can’t you just build a nice business and can’t other people have a nice business?
I do think it’s good to have an enemy, but to me, the enemy is more an idea that you’re opposed to, rather than another business. For example, we’re opposed to the prevailing idea in our industry that you have to work 60, 70, 80 hours a week to do a good job. We believe 40 is enough.

Note that, to get a job at Basecamp, no matter what position you apply for, you must have one certain skill.

Our top hiring criteria—in addition to having the skills to do the job—is, are you a great writer? You have to be a great writer to work here, in every single position, because the majority of our communication is written, primarily because a lot of us work remotely but also because writing is quieter. And we like long-form writing where people really think through an idea and present it.
This is one of the reasons I don’t like chat services. When companies start thinking one line at a time and everyone’s rushed and you have to get your conversation in before it scrolls off the screen, I think it’s a terrible, frantic way to work, and people are burning out because of it.

In other words, although the firm doesn't require you to work long hours, it definitely discourages Slacking.

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Filed Under: Interviewing | Job Search | Technology | Workplace Issues

Tags: basecamp | health and wellness | job burnout | stress | work/life balance

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