All Work and No Play Doesn’t Just Make Jack a Dull Boy — Overwork Can Kill You

It’s easy to look at a problem read in the newspaper and say, “yeah, I can see that could be a problem.” It’s not easy when it happens in your own workplace.

Everyone at a certain very large business left Friday afternoon with the exception of one person. Well, he left, too. I don’t think corpses are considered in that department. He was found Monday morning slouched onto his keyboard, dead.

I think we may be able to define that, at least in part, as overwork. A family member actually works there and in the same general department. He is now doing the work of three people, and when someone has a furlough day that ratchets up to four people.

To do the work it took a minimum of three others to accomplish when your own took more than forty hours a week is going to make you stay at the office longer. There’s no way around it.

There are those who say “stop whining, at least you have a job.” I suppose that’s one way to look at it, but it’s not mine. Mine is backed up by science, and it ought to be looked at very carefully. It really does kill.

Researchers in England have found a direct connection between working long hours (say eleven a day) on a regular basis increases the risk of having a heart attack by 67% when compared to those working standard hours. That’s not a small number. It also makes it more difficult for type 2 diabetics to keep to their blood sugar goals.

There is a possible link to overtime and depression/anxiety. This is true for both men and women, though men seem to have more instances.

What causes this to happen? There are several things that can lead to this. You can do something about some of them, but others may require a change of occupation to resolve. Here are a few causes, and where possible tips:

Lack of Sleep: Adults, both male and female, require a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night. Some may require up to ten. This lack does a number on many parts of your body. It increases your likelihood of obesity, heart disease and many other life threatening conditions.

Tip: It may make some things more difficult, but try to average seven hours a night. It’s not a good idea to try to make up for lost time on the weekend.

Not Enough Exercise: Office workers of all sorts spend most of their day stuffed into a tiny cubicle. There isn’t time for exercise during the day and by the time you get home, you’re too mentally drained to work out.

Tip: Instead of working through lunch, go for a walk. A pedometer can help you find a route around your workplace that lets you get in a half mile or so five days a week.

Poor Diet: The cafeteria, lunch truck or nearby fast food restaurants are not your only choices, trust me. Foods high in fat, cholesterol, sugar and sodium are not good for you and can be a great detriment to your health.

Tip: Many offices have both a fridge and microwave, making it possible to bring a lunch from home. If you don’t want to bring sandwiches or leftovers, there are several brands of healthier frozen lunches available at your grocers.

Sitting Too Long: This is more than just lack of exercise. Blood clots can form due to restricted circulation, break free and cause heart attacks, strokes and other serious medical conditions.

Tip: Long haul airline passengers are told to get up and walk around every so often to prevent these clots from forming. You might want to follow the same advice. This allows free circulation to your legs and reduces the risk of blood clots.

Stress: The number one health threat at most places of employment is stress. It may be from the increased work load, fear of being laid off or any number of issues. The longer you work, the higher the stress levels.

Tip: First, don’t bring your work home with you. Sitting and mulling all the things that happened previously or are likely to happen tomorrow will make your life even more difficult. Second, learn some coping mechanisms that will work for you. There are many choices, so one may suit you and your situation.

Toxic Coworkers: Do you have a Miss Whinesalot? How about Mr. Machoguy? Perhaps you have to deal with Mrs. Gossipmonger. Coworkers that do nothing but annoy you can be bad, but if you’re putting in fifty to a hundred hours a week with them, they could be deadly.

Tip: Some of them can be reasoned with, others can be avoided and ignored. If the situation gets really bad, a word to your supervisor may be a good idea. If that doesn’t work, it is time to start consulting the want ads.

It is a tough economy, and you may have to stay where you are or risk being unemployed and unemployable. If you have to stay, talk to your doctor about medical means around the situation. There are options and you deserve to maintain good health.