Long working hours can ‘kill you’: Here’s how you can maintain a good work-life balance

We all want to be successful, but should it come at the cost of our lives? A report by the United Nations reveals that long working hours can kill you. Here’s all that you need to know
bullying at work
Being bullied at work can be detrimental to your mental peace. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Geetika Sachdev Published: 20 Sep 2021, 15:21 pm IST
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Hustle, hustle, hustle…that’s what we’ve been taught, right? After all, if you don’t, you are going to be left behind in the rat race. Plus, by ingraining ideas like ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’, we’ve been made to believe that this is a way of life, and if you do not conform to the ‘popular ideas’ perpetuated by toxic work cultures, climbing the ladder to success will always be a distant dream. But what if we tell you that burning the midnight oil is not the best thing to do, even if it promises you an ideal future? Yes, if long working hours are a part of your daily routine, stop right away! You could be in serious trouble, we say.

There’s proof to testify to this fact. As per the United Nations, work-related injuries and illnesses kill nearly two million people annually. The joint assessment by the UN’s health and labour agencies has taken into account global disease and injury burden linked to job stretches from 2000 to 2016. A whopping 1.9 million deaths worldwide were officially linked to work-related causes in 2016, a surge from 1.7 million, which were recorded at the turn of the century.

And with the pandemic reinforcing the concept of ‘work from home’ (hello, blurred work-life boundaries), it is safe to assume that things are going downhill.

Delving deep into work life today

There’s no denying that long working hours have become the bane of our times. The study conducted by the UN also examines other 19 occupational risk factors, including exposure to carcinogens like asbestos, ergonomic factors like prolonged sitting and manual handling of loads.

“It’s shocking to see so many people literally being killed by their jobs. Our report is a wake-up call to countries and businesses to improve and protect the health and safety of workers,” World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press statement. 

Moreover,  the study found that the greatest cause of death has been chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which killed 415,000 people in 2016, followed by strokes and ischaemic heart disease. 

long working hours and stress
If you work in a graveyard shift then be extra cautious of your heart health. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The death rate from heart disease associated with exposure to long working hours went up by 41 percent, while stroke deaths brought on by excessive work rose 19 percent, the report showed.

In fact, the recent death of actor Sidharth Shukla also went on to highlight that age has nothing to do with cardiac-related issues. Cardiac arrests are becoming increasingly common, and one of the biggest reasons is work-related stress. Meetings, work calls, reports, presentations et al might be a part and parcel of our lives, but are they worth risking our lives? Of course, everything needs to be done in moderation; that applies to work too! 

How do we cope with long working hours?

Of course, it can feel overwhelming when you’ve got a lot to do during the day, but here’s what you can do to ease the situation.

1. Make a schedule: This is the most simple trick, and yet most effective. Plan your day well, and you will know where you are spending each minute. You can prioritise your tasks into urgent and important tasks, and then move on to the remaining ones. As you finish each task, check them off the list. It will give you a feeling of accomplishment!

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long working hours and stress
Plan in advance for everything. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Automate what you can: Technology is our friend in so many ways, so if you can find ways to automate certain tasks, go ahead and do it. This way, you will save time spent on mundane tasks, and that will give you more room to complete the important ones.

3. Track time: When you know you are going to spend a stipulated amount of time on each task, it gives you a sense of control. And you could utilise a time tracker to help you understand how you could get better. For instance, if you find yourself scrolling through social media for two hours, you must stop. That way, you will have more time to finish tasks at hand, so that you don’t have to burn the midnight oil.

4. Take power naps: You really need sleep to be productive, and if you are sacrificing on snooze time, you are going to get nowhere. If you can squeeze 20-30 minutes of nap time during the day, you will get your creative juices flowing and be more efficient. Plus, you’ll be able to restore your energy!

5. Take a break: Most of us feel guilty for taking breaks, but guess what? They are really important to keep you sane! As per a research, people’s productivity builds up for 52 minutes in one go, before it goes down. You must take a 17-minute break post that. During these breaks, talk to your friends or family, enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, go for a walk, listen to music, or anything else that you like doing. 

long working hours and stress
Taking a break can actually help you at work! Image courtesy: Shutterstock
How can you mitigate work-related stress?

Here are simple ways in which you can handle the stress that comes with long working hours: 

  • Take a short walk during lunch break for about 15-20 minutes;
  • Dress up your working space and add a lot of colour. It will make you want to work and reduce stress;
  •  Bond with your co-workers (even in the case of remote working); 
  • Counseling can help a great deal in tackling work-related stress or otherwise; 
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. Do not skip meals, exercise or sleep. 

So ladies, now that you know all the tips and tricks, go ahead and enjoy a good work-life balance!

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About the Author

An independent writer and journalist, Geetika loves sharp and fresh humour, just like her coffee! If not writing, you'll find her cafe-hopping and raiding the best book stores in town. ...Read More

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