American workers know the drill. Even after working 40 hours a week, they often feel pressured to work long hours to complete more work.
The world’s wealthiest man and newest Twitter CEO, Elon Musk, made headlines recently after some Twitter employees were encouraged to work a 12-hour shift, seven days straight, to meet the CEO’s company goals.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone who has paid attention to Musk over the years. He is, in fact, a well-known proponent of long work hours. Consider his Tweet from November 2018 that read, “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.”
Musk isn’t the only one who believes that long hours hold the key to getting work done. A recent Harvard study found that CEOs worked, on average, 62.5-hour weeks.
Sadly, plenty of much lower-level workers are putting in similar long hours. One study found that roughly one-half of full-time workers in the United States worked in excess of 40 hours weekly. 18% of those workers said they worked over 60 hours each week.
Regardless of what Musk or anyone else says about working long hours being the key to success, science says otherwise. In fact, studies show a diminished return from working long hours that not only will not make any positive difference in the workplace but will also wreak havoc on an employee’s brain and body.
Read on to find out five things that happen to a person when they work over 40 hours each week.
1. A WORKER’S RISK OF DEATH FROM A HEART ATTACK OR STROKE INCREASES.
Working long hours can result in serious, sometimes fatal, health consequences.
A global study from the International Labour Organization and World Health Organization found that working over 55 hours a week resulted in 745,000 cardiovascular disease-related deaths in 2016. The study found that working over 55 hours a week resulted in a 35% greater stroke risk and a 17% increase in the risk of death due to heart disease when compared to individuals working between 35 and 40 hours each week.
Experts say that long work hours can be directly attributed to cardiovascular disease events brought on by stress which can damage cells in the heart and brain. Long work hours also indirectly result in risky behaviors such as decreased physical exercise, poor diet, and less sleep.
For anyone stuck in a job that forces them to work over 40 hours each week, experts say you should try and organize with others to demand better workplace conditions.
Experts say that healthy work hours can be enshrined in collectively bargained work agreements. However, employers, workers, and governments all play a role in monitoring work hours and encouraging healthy work limits.
2. A WORKER’S RISK OF JOB INJURY INCREASES.
Working longer hours can put you at risk of physical injury on the job.
One study found that working 12 hours a day increased work hazard rates by 37%, while working 60 or more hours a week increased hazard rates by 23%.
3. LONGER HOURS ERODE A WORKER’S MENTAL HEALTH.
As you sacrifice your needs to continue working, your mental health suffers.
A 2020 study looked at a broad spectrum of workers, from those working 31 hours each week to those working more than 60, and found that the more hours an employee put in at work, the higher their stress, depression, or suicidal ideation levels.
4. A WORKER’S SLEEP PATTERNS BECOME DISRUPTED.
You pay a steep price when you lose sleep because you have to stay up late and meet a deadline.
In reviewing hundreds of studies conducted between 1998 and 2018, the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that individuals working between 50 to 60 hours each week faced increased fatigue, decreased cognitive function, a greater risk of work injury, and severe mental health problems.
Sleep is crucial to a human’s well-being. If an individual sleeps fewer than six hours a night, they won’t just be grumpy the following day; they will become irritable, anxious, and more distracted, putting their mental and physical health at greater risk.
5. A WORKER’S JOB PERFORMANCE SUFFERS.
Working long hours doesn’t equal better work.
In fact, studies show that workers who put in 30 to 50 hours of work can display peak performance, but beyond that, job performance plateaus. Job performance takes a nose dive for those working over 65 hours each week.
Working hard is good, but overworking yourself is entirely different.
Employees who work excessive hours may experience stress and fatigue, reducing their productivity and increasing the probability that they will make mistakes, become accident victims, or get sick, which can all hurt an employer’s bottom line.
40+ HOUR WORK WEEK TAKEAWAYS
For businesses and employees, the bottom line is that working longer doesn’t necessarily result in better results.
It will, however, risk the health of both the employee and the company.