What does the term “overworked” mean?
The typical work week lasts between 40 and 50 hours. Your workload may also be affected by other elements, such as:
- The distance you have to travel
- Your workplace and the people you interact with.
- Regardless of whether you feel valued
Do you feel worn out and uninspired when you go home? Is it difficult to get yourself to do activities you enjoy? Do you or others you care about believe that all you do is work? Reading these and nodding in agreement suggests that your job could be too demanding.
Why people work long hours
Many aspects of how we work have changed because of modern technology, but it has also sparked a hyper-connected society that makes it more difficult than ever to disengage when needed.
In an effort to finish more work before a deadline for a significant project, we frequently put everything on hold, respond to one email past midnight, and allow our work to continue into the weekend. However, a Stanford University study discovered that productivity declines once we start working more than 50 hours per week.
While some see the main benefit of long work hours as higher pay, others see it as an opportunity to show their commitment and increase their chances of promotion. Working longer may also result from a shortage of employees, a flat organisational structure where everyone serves multiple functions, or simply from enjoying your work so much that you lose track of time.
Whatever your motivations for working extra hours, it’s crucial to remain productive and healthy when you’ve had a long week.
Is excessive work harmful?
Long work hours have been recognised to be harmful to employees’ physical and mental health throughout history, regardless of sex, age, marital status, location, or degree of education.
Administrators expect their staff members to work long hours, respond to emails whenever they get them, and even work during their free time at nights, weekends, vacations, etc. The remote control for subordinates in this equation is overwork, which cascades down the organisational pyramid from top to bottom. This is the only account of excessive labour.
The psychological factors follow. We put in excessive hours due to various internal forces, including ambition, avarice, anxiety, guilt, pleasure, pride, the draw of immediate benefits, the need to establish our value, or an excessive feeling of obligation.
Many of these are favourable. However, others are bad. According to several studies, our daily lives at home are less stressful than at work. Workplaces may be safe havens where people can feel in charge and self-assured.
According to the most recent estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Labour Organization (ILO), which were published in Environment International on May 21, 2021, long work hours contributed to 7,45,000 deaths from stroke and heart disease in 2016, a 29% increase since 2000.
WHO and ILO estimate that in 2016, 3,98,000 individuals died from a stroke and 3,47,000 from heart disease due to working at least 55 hours per week in the first-ever global examination of the loss of life and health-related concerns associated with working long hours. Long hours worked caused a 42% rise in deaths from heart disease and a 19% increase in fatalities from stroke between 2000 and 2016.
There is not much research done in India to examine or measure the detrimental impact of long work hours on mental health or on the job strain caused by extended working hours.
However, a South Korean survey found that in terms of stress levels, 23.0% of workers who worked between 31 and 40 hours per week said they felt a lot of stress, followed by 30.3% of workers who worked between 41 and 50 hours, 39.8% of workers who worked between 51 and 60 hours, and 42.4% of workers who worked more than 60 hours per week.
Therefore, it is evident that as work hours increase, workers experience greater physical and mental stress. This ailment affects the entire salaried class in India’s private sector. They must also pay a very high direct tax to the state treasury on top of that.
In India, labour welfare laws govern working hours and other aspects of employment. According to the Factories Act of 1948, no adult (someone who has reached the age of 18) may work more than 48 hours a week and no more than 9 hours a day. There are numerous additional laws about worker welfare. The spread over must not be longer than 10-1/2 hours under Section 51 of the Factories Act.
Business organisations are reaping the benefits of this law’s provision for long work hours that range between nine to ten and a half hours, which tilts in favour of the businesses and reduces benefits to the labour. As a result, the typical worker in the private sector in modern India appears to work between 60 and 72 hours a week without receiving the necessary additional compensation.
According to a survey by the International Labour Organization, Indians are among the most overworked employees in the world and receive the lowest minimum statutory pay in the Asia-Pacific region, except Bangladesh (ILO). In the study titled “Global Wage Report 2020-21: Wages and Minimum Wages in the Time of COVID-19,” India is ranked fifth among all nations with long workweeks.
According to the report, salaried and self-employed individuals are paid well more in the Indian workforce. It mentions that paid employees in cities put in more hours than those in rural regions.
Chronic psychosocial work stressors, such as low job control (low skill discretion and low decision authority), high psychological job demands, lack of supervisor and coworker support, bullying or harassment at work, a lack of social interactions with coworkers, job insecurity, long working hours and job strain,, etc., have severe adverse effects on the physical and psychological health of the workforce. This is according to a study that was conducted across many countries.
Stress, despair, and suicidal thoughts are just a few of the ways that long work hours impact the mental health. Stress may commonly lead to depression, which can eventually cause significant suicidal thoughts as well as the development of diseases and poor quality of life.
In turn, suicidal thoughts substantially influence one’s physical and mental health and can significantly increase the burden of sickness in the world. These are crucial challenges for society as well as for the individual.
The COVID-19 pandemic, according to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, “has fundamentally affected the way many people operate.” Teleworking has established itself as the standard in many businesses, sometimes erasing the distinction between work and home. Additionally, to conserve money, many firms have been compelled to curtail or shut down operations, resulting in employees who are still on the payroll working longer hours. For setting restrictions to safeguard workers’ health, governments, businesses, and employees must collaborate.
How can I tell if I’m spending too much time working?
1. Alcohol or drugs are becoming your vices.
Long work hours and workplace stress are linked to excessive alcohol intake. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, men and women should each have no more than two drinks daily. Drinking impairs concentration and can cause other, severe health problems.
2. You work less efficiently.
An employee’s productivity declines with increased work hours and stress. Simply put, we’re not designed to function constantly. “Work smart, not hard,” was rightly said. If you put in a lot of effort but get little in return, you could feel overwhelmed, and eventually, your productivity may even drop. According to research from Stanford University, those who put in 70 hours a week aren’t necessarily more productive than those who put in 56.
3. You might have trouble sleeping and experience fatigue.
Lack of sleep is a frequent issue, and it may indicate overwork. According to studies, getting a good night’s sleep changes how the brain processes stress and anxiety. Working long hours may cause you to sleep a little less. Lack of sleep is a pit. When your body clock is out of whack, stress levels increase. Sleep deprivation has consequences on personal care as well. Bad driving practises, bad eating practices, extreme weariness, and sour disposition. The outcome? The following day, you’re grouchier and more exhausted than usual.
4. You’re skipping over relationships.
Family and friends could feel neglected and deprived of your presence and love if you spend most of your day at work. Additionally, it’s common for people to vent their dissatisfaction at work on their loved ones, therefore straining bonds.
5. Your life may be dominated by stress.
The burden on the lifestyle that comes with long workweeks raises stress levels. Due to their excessive responsibilities, most individuals work late. It wears on our minds to do that. A series of stressors follow, and you stay back late because the workload is too much. You stop doing things that might normally help you relax when you stay up late. Family time, physical activity, eating well, or leisure pursuits are a few examples. As a result, having a heavy task not only makes you stressed out but also makes it difficult for you to relax.
Indicators of a poor work-life balance
There are moments at work when it might be challenging to meet deadlines. However, if putting in more than 55 hours a week has been the norm, you may be burnt out. Here are a few indicators that your work-life balance may be unhealthy.
1. You stop caring for yourself: due to constant work-related commitments, you are not able to have me time, including taking care of your grooming and pursuing hobbies.
2. Your mental well-being isn’t a priority for you: Workload increases workplace stress and impacts your mental health. The reason is you lose the importance of yourself and spend too much time working.
3. Your job has lost its purpose: Because of the poor work environment and constant demands of work from the employer, you are somehow losing interest in your work, and it is making you hopeless.
4. Your performance at work causes ongoing anxiety: Losing interest in your job comes with job dissatisfaction and workplace stress. It results in you being less productive, less proactive, and more prone to making mistakes. The negative feedback on your performance results in anxiety.
5. You have difficulty drawing the line between work and home: You cannot set clear boundaries between work and your personal life. Spending too much time in a job erases the line between work and life, which results in mental health issues.
6. Your work is making you lonely: Due to too much engagement, you feel lost and aloof, away from friends and family.
Chandan is a 34-year-old entrepreneur who lives with his family in Delhi; as it is his own company, there are too many eggs in his basket right now. Due to this, he experiences fatigue, disengagement in activities, lack of social connections, and unhealthy relationships.
Ways to Deal with It!
1. Put forward Issues at work: Instead of developing mumbling martyr cliques, discuss the workload issue. Instead of making accusations, pose questions. Recognize the underlying issues, and get a consensus on remedies.
2. Time management is key: Plan your day, week, or month so that you are focused on attaining your personal and professional goals rather than dragging yourself clumsily along behind someone else’s agenda.
3. Never accept unrealistic deadlines: No one will think more highly of you since it is neither bond nor wise. They’ll consider your devotion a given and count on you to work even harder or faster the next time. Please do not do it since it is not sustainable. Setting reasonable deadlines and meeting them can help you build a better reputation than sending erratic emails at odd hours.
4. Balance your time between home and work: Put “getting home” on your calendar and treat it as a mandatory appointment.
5. Establish job priorities: If your to-do list is modest, it may be a useful organisational tool. Decide what needs to be done immediately and what can wait until tomorrow. If you have trouble understanding this idea, try making your daily lists using the 1-3-5 technique. Make a list of one important task, three medium-sized chores, and five less important but nice-to-have minor activities. Make a new list for the next business day. Not every task is necessary. Select the task that is the most important.
6. Work wiser rather than harder: Try to decentralise the way the work is done. Choose the best candidate for the position and assign the work appropriately. Track your progress and solicit regular feedback.
7. Say no to multitasking: Contrary to popular belief, the perfect employee is not one who always multitasks. When you divide your focus between two or more jobs, you risk making mistakes that will increase the amount of work when you return and prevent workplace stress..
8. Be kind to your flaws: Overly demanding perfection can occasionally paralyse you. It’s time to quiet your inner critic if you spend additional time working because you believe your work could always be slightly better. Set a timer for the amount of time you think a task requires. Success depends on having reasonable expectations.
Chandan saw a therapist at Ananda.ai and was advised the above-mentioned points to be maintained and followed ritualistically. After the follow-up session with him, some improvements were noted.
What can team leaders do?
We must be conscious of the dynamics inside our team as leaders. When our team is overworked, we must be self-aware enough to recognise what is happening. This will give the leaders enough opportunities to formulate action plans that streamline teamwork, cut down overtime, and boost efficiency, production, and happiness.
The lives of your employees extend beyond the workplace. Do what you can to make the most of that time for them, and we guarantee that they will reward you with more involvement, esteem, and loyalty.
The following steps could be implemented at the organisational level to safeguard employees’ health:
- Companies can develop, implement, and enforce laws, rules, and policies that forbid mandatory overtime and guarantee maximum working hours.
- Bipartite or collective bargaining agreements between companies and employees’ associations can set a more flexible working schedule while also deciding on a maximum amount of hours;
- To prevent the number of hours worked from rising to 55 or more per week, employees could split up the workday.
Working long hours is often unavoidable, but it can seem satisfying if you’re trying to further your profession. When you stop delivering productive work or, worse still, when you burn out, it becomes an issue. You will remain motivated and produce your best work if you keep your goals in mind and practise good habits.
It is crucial that the government in the states and the union government take steps towards the looming danger and ensure that the salaried working class is saved from the rampant slavery-like situation currently prevailing in the country. This is because of the poor healthcare infrastructure in the country, the exorbitant cost of treatment and medication, and the rise in the cost of living.