Working additional hours is a common practice among many employees nowadays. According to the data from the European statistics agency Eurostat, full-time employees in the UK work longer hours than full-time employees in other EU countries (except Greece and Austria). In fact, workers in the UK work 42.5 hours a week, on average, which is more than the European average (41.2 hours per week).
Before making the choice to work longer, be aware that this habit can have serious consequences on your physical and mental health. So, whenever you can, you should avoid staying late at the office.
If you really have to stay late, you should at least learn how to make it less stressful and more comfortable. This article will provide you with several tricks.
This blog post will help you to discover:
- Helpful tips when working extra hours,
- How overworking can cause burnout,
- The difference between workaholics and hard workers, and
- How overtime work affects your health.
Even if you’ve never worked more than your regular working hours, this could be your guide in case you have to work late sometimes.
Helpful tips when working additional hours
1. Plan your day ahead
If you know that you’re going to have a busy day and you might stay longer at the office, plan your day ahead.
These are the steps you should take:
- first, think about your priorities for that day,
- then, write down your priorities in the form of a to-do list,
- finally, decide how much time you will need for each priority and write it down.
Having all your significant tasks in one place will help you stay focused. Besides, you can add a checkmark next to the task you’ve just finished. This will keep you motivated to complete the full list.
2. Take frequent breaks
Having breaks when working is always essential, especially when you’re supposed to work long hours. Try taking quick breaks every two hours. You can take a walk, call your friend or make another cup of coffee – it’s up to you.
Breaks help us regain our focus and make us more productive. Here’s how a psychology professor Alejandro Lleras, from the University of Illinois, explains that:
“From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks, it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself.”
As he points out, these brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task.
3. Ask for help
Let’s say that you’ve been trying to solve a particular issue at work. You’ve worked extended hours for days and haven’t succeeded.
Whenever you’re exhausted, you need a fresh point of view. The best thing you can do is ask for help from your colleagues. But, before you seek for their advice, ask yourself whether you’ve exploited all simple solutions. If so, then you should consult with your colleagues.
In addition, you can write down the list of the best ideas you’ve come up with so far. Then, feel free to show the list to your colleagues and ask for their opinion. The chances are, maybe you’re on the right path to the solution, but just need a few tweaks.
4. Try to maintain a healthy lifestyle
Keeping up a healthy lifestyle should always be your priority, but especially when working too much.
Be sure to follow these simple rules in order to stay healthy during long hours at the office:
- Eat properly. Stay away from junk food and try not to skip any meals throughout the day. Be sure to keep healthy snacks handy, too.
- Drink enough water. The Institute of Medicine advises 13 cups for men and 9 cups for women daily.
- Get enough sleep. Whenever you can, try to sleep for at least 7 hours per night.
- Try to find a type of exercise you’ll enjoy the most, be it going to the gym, running or hiking. Besides, be sure to stay active during office hours, too. This might include stretching, sitting on a stability ball, or taking stairs instead of an elevator.
By following these simple tips, you could avoid having serious consequences of overtime work.
Consequences of working additional hours
Working beyond your capabilities not only makes you tired but can cause burnout and impact your health, too. We’ll cover these repercussions in the section below, as well as explain the true meaning of a workaholic.
What is burnout?
Burnout is the term we use to describe the feeling of exhaustion caused by overwork or stress. This term was invented by a German-American psychologist Herbert Freudenberger, in 1974.
Overworking can sometimes cause career burnout. This condition is the subject of many kinds of research across the globe. In addition, the World Health Organization and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) have identified burnout as an “occupational phenomenon”.
There are many symptoms of burnout, such as chest pain, dizziness, lack of energy, as well as sleep deprivation. Burnout can even lead to depression.
If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms due to putting in extra hours, it’s time to slow down. Try limiting your workdays to standard working hours.
Now, you might be wondering if too much work makes you a hard worker or a workaholic. Let’s take a close look at these two categories of employees, and learn what sets them apart.
Do workaholics enjoy working?
To find an answer to this question, we need to analyze the true meaning of the word workaholic.
The term “workaholic” represents someone with “an uncontrollable need to work incessantly.” This phrase was created by psychologist Wayne E. Oates in 1968.
The most common signs of workaholism are:
- having an urge to work hard,
- always thinking about work, and
- the feeling of guilt when you’re not working.
Unlike workaholics, who always think about work, hard workers have their ways to disconnect from work.
Here are other differences between workaholics and hard workers:
|Physically obsessed with work
||Feels passionate about work
|Constantly works late
||Rarely works late
|Disregards family life
||Keeps the work-life balance
|Loves being addicted to work
||Loves the work itself
|Works in order to reduce anxiety and depression
||Works in order to accomplish own career goals
|Bad team player
||Good team player
|Experiences work burnout every day
||Manages to reduce work burnout
|Never says “no”
||Knows how to say “no”
|Even when not at work, still thinks of work
||Appreciates having free time
These qualities are noted in the research “The Prevalence of Workaholism: A Survey Study in a Nationally Representative Sample of Norwegian Employees”.
As you can see from the table, being a workaholic means being at risk of burnout. On the contrary, hard workers can manage to reduce burnout.
When it comes to the average number of working hours, workaholics constantly stay late. On another note, hard workers rarely work late.
This study has shown us that workaholics love being addicted to work, while hard workers love the work itself. In conclusion, workaholics don’t truly enjoy working. The reason behind their long working hours is their addiction to work.
No matter if you’re a hard worker or a workaholic, be sure that putting in extra hours can have consequences on your health.
Many studies have shown the correlation between overworking and its impact on your physical and mental health.
For instance, there is a study called Association Between Reported Long Working Hours and History of Stroke in the CONSTANCES Cohort. The purpose of this research was to examine whether long working hours (LWH) can cause a stroke. Among the participants, there were some who reported LWH and others who reported LWH for 10 years and more. According to their results, there is a connection between working overtime for 10 years or more and a stroke.
Besides the physical, working for too long can affect your mental health, too. The research published by the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, analyzed long work hours, weekend working and depressive symptoms in men and women. They surveyed 11 215 men and 12 188 women in employment or self-employment in the UK. Their results show that working 55 hours or more is associated with depression among women. Also, weekend working is linked to depressive symptoms for men.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that working overtime will make you ill if you stay late at the office only a few times a year. But, if burning the midnight oil eventually becomes your routine, you might truly experience some health issues.
As we already mentioned, avoid working late when you can. In case this is inevitable, our tips can help you stay healthy during extended hours at work.
Putting in long hours can cause career burnout and impact your health, too. That’s why it’s advisable to avoid staying late at work. In case you have to work late, learn how to make this time more convenient. Organizing your workday properly and adopting a healthy lifestyle will surely do the trick.
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