Working hard is the only way to get ahead, but could spending extra hours at the office be deadly? A recent 2015 an analysis done on 300 different studies revealed that working in a poor environment can be just as bad for your health as second-hand smoke. This may seem relatively benign until you realize that means around 41,000 deaths a year. Some experts claim there is even more workplace related deaths—as many as 120,000 per year.
These deaths may conjure up images of terrible workplace accidents, but the reality is probably much closer to something you’ve experienced before. Long hours, difficult co-workers, and being forced to choose between work and home can all take its toll on your health. In Japan, there is even a word for this. “Karoshi,” which means death by overwork.
In 2017, a Japanese woman died this way. (1) She logged over 150 hours of overtime inside of a single month, and then promptly died from heart failure. Americans are no stranger to overtime either. 20% of Americans who have paid vacation time saved up never take it and 47% have more than five days of vacation time waiting for them at any given time. (2)
Despite this, long hours and poor working environments don’t do companies any good either. When employees put in more time at the office, they are less productive during those additional hours. The IGDA (International Game Developers Association) conducted a study that found if you work eight consecutive 60 hour work weeks, the amount of work done is no different than if you worked eight successive 40 hour weeks. No different at all. The difference in your health can be immeasurable. Overtime is associated with chronic conditions such as heart attacks, as well as death by suicide.
Long working hours aren’t the only deadly part of a poor work environment. If you can’t stand your coworkers, your odds of dying for any reason, go up. (3) If you happen to like and get along well with your coworkers, the opposite happens. Your lifespan might even increase.
If you find yourself dreading work in the mornings, or simply working too hard, changing jobs or slowing down could save your life. Even if you enjoy your job and coworkers, learning to limit your stress is important.
Methods to help reduce workplace stress include taking time for self-care. This might mean yoga, massage, or meditation. Saying no to overtime, and finding a company with coworkers that are easy to get along with, can all be big steps in making your work life a great one.
We spend most of our waking lives at work. It makes sense to ensure that if you are going to put in that much time with a company, it has the same values you share, and people who will support you instead of making you miserable.
If you think your work is killing you, it probably is. Make a change while you still have your health!
Readers Bureau, Contributor
Edited by Jesus Chan
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