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Overworking could be deadly—here’s why

In Japan, there are increasing incidents of karoushi, which means death by overworking.

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In order to meet deadlines, workers often render overtime work just to get the job done. There could be various of reasons why people clock in more hours than they should. It could be that there’s too much work to be done, too many meetings to go to, in-office distractions, e-mail overload and even as a way to show-off to get a promotion.

A survey conducted by ABC News last March revealed that 26% of 1,000 respondents said that they were working too hard. Meanwhile, a study from the Families and Work Institute revealed that the time spent on the job and why people worked long hours had them feeling overworked. One-quarter of respondents said that they worked over 50 hours per week, while 22% said that they worked six to seven days a week. In addition to this, a quarter said they didn’t use their vacation time, and 55% of those who didn’t take a break felt overworked compared to the 27% who used up their free days.

What are the signs of overwork?

Being overworked can manifest itself through a vast range of health and mental problems. Among these are having difficulty relaxing even when you’re not working, feeling that there aren’t enough hours in a day, having an unending laundry list of things to do and feeling like never being able to catch up. Meanwhile, the health effects of being overworked include losing or gaining weight, experiencing unexplained aches and pains on your body, an increase in blood pressure and taking multiple medications.

In some instances, being overworked can lead to the loss of one’s life. In Japan, 31-year-old Miwa Sado worked as a journalist for a state-run broadcaster NHK. She spent 2013 covering two local elections in Tokyo. In just one month, Sado clocked in 159 hours of overtime with barely any weekends off. Her work schedule lasted until midnight each day. Days after the second election, Sado died of congestive heart failure.

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Death from overwork or translated as “karoushi” in Japan, is recognized as a phenomenon that started in the late 1980s. Karoushi has been reported among different levels of workers from white-collar executives, automotive engineers, and immigrant trainees.

Overworked.

Overworking can lead to fatal consequences. (Source)

What can be done to counter overwork?

Scott Elbin, the author of “Overwork and Overwhelmed: The Mindfulness Alternative” said that “the only person who is going to keep you from feeling overworked and overwhelmed is yourself.” To avoid working too hard, here are some tips that could come in handy:

  • Question yourself if it’s necessary to have a meeting, create a report or respond to an email.
  • Reset calendars and re-prioritize tasks.
  • Understand and set an operating rhythm.
  • Do the most important tasks first.
  • Give time for unconscious thought to make smart decisions later on.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Be strategic about using “yes” and “no.”
  • Tame the distractions

While overtime work can help get tasks done especially if there’s a deadline looming ahead and getting overtime pay for the extra hours, ask yourself first if it’s really worth your health and time to do a task. Also, remember that there is always more to life than just putting in those long hours at work.

J. Frank Sigerson is a business journalist and culture writer focused on covering the following sectors and interests: financial stocks, biotechnology, healthcare, mining, IT and design, social media, pop culture, food and wine, TV, film and music. His previous works have been published in WIRED Innovation Insights, Investing.com, GuruFocus, CNN, among others. He sometimes writes for Technology.org and Thought Catalog.

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