June 3, 2021 – Are you being worked to death? If you feel at times as if you are being worked to death … you might be right! To be clear, this news in no way implies that the wire and cable industry is not good for one’s health … but it does raise a concern to any working person.
Overworking is so prevalent that the Japanese even have a word for it: karoshi: death from overwork. Working more than 55 hours per week can lead to a slew of adverse health reactions, from ischemic heart disease, stroke and stress to impaired memory/sleep, suicide and death. Karoshi is common in Asia, but it is spreading around the world and in diverse industries.
Per a recent World Health Organization (WHO) study, 745,000 people who worked more than 55 hours a week died of heart disease and stroke in 2016. The number for heart attacks was up a shocking 42% from 2000. And long work weeks are quite common. In 2016, WHO and the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that 488 million people worldwide worked more than 55 hours a week. Of note, the latest ILO statistics show that the country that leads the world in long work weeks is Yemen, where 97% of employees work 49 hours or more. (The U.S. was listed at 14%.)
Overwork can include being available for work emails and calls 24/7. The Harvard Business Review reports that such overloading can make certain job duties more difficult, from sales and decision-making and judgment calls to getting along with coworkers. Ironically, those who give it their all may not reap any praise, let alone rewards: a Boston University study found that managers often could not tell the difference between employees who actually worked 80 hours a week and those who pretended to.
You might think that working from home during Covid-19 would have resulted in fewer work hours and less stress. Just the opposite. “Teleworking has become the norm in many industries, often blurring the boundaries between home and work,” noted WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in Forbes. Workers with family obligations fit their work in during bizarre hours like very early in the morning, during the night, and over the weekends, disrupting the circadian rhythm of their sleep–wake cycle.
WHO Director Dr. Maria Neira suggests that governments and employers should forbid mandatory overtime, arrange flexible work schedules, create work-sharing among employees, and set the maximum work hours to 55 per week for a single person. She recommends that employees ignore their smartphone for several hours per day, pursue a hobby or enjoyable activity, eat right, exercise and get enough sleep.
Of course, the ability to schedule in such recommendations would be the real challenge.