Science

Working more than 40 hours a week could be bad for your health

By Tom Morris

Most students would agree: if there’s any cause worth fighting for, it’s the cause of doing the least work possible. New research is here to back the student body up; showing that more than forty hours work a week can be bad for workers’ health and has little effect on productivity.

It is interesting that most research until now has merely focused on what the boss-men want to see: productivity. The new research focused instead on the effect long hours can have on employees’ health.

The findings showed that working more than ten hours a day increases the chances of developing cardiovascular problems. Working more than 40 hours a week leads to unhealthy symptoms including weight gain and depression. Working even more, 50 or 60 hours a week, can lead to injuries, relationship problems and myriad other problems for the employee, the research shows. People who work a lot more also tend to smoke and drink more.

All of this cost comes at very little reward for employee or employer. In office jobs, a 25 per cent decrease in productivity was observed when workers were putting in more than 60 hours a week. Such ridiculous hours would also seem to translate to needing to take time off work, with 54 per cent of companies with high rates of overtime showing more than 9 per cent in the absenteeism figures. In contrast, only 23 per cent of companies where the working culture does not necessitate above average overtime saw absenteeism rise above 9 per cent.

In America and increasingly also in Britain, we have a 24/7 working culture. Zero hours contracts, decline of the unions, recession and a number of other factors have combined to create societies where people jostle elbows in the job market, and are willing to go the extra mile to get a job. Many students now in their second and third years will be realising this as they hope to get an internship and work for free for months or even years.

It wasn’t always this way. This is a culture that has developed as the jobs market has become more crowded – especially “at the top”, where a record number of graduates now fight for an unchanging number of graduate career positions.

What is the message we should be taking from this research, jokes about slovenly students aside? Perhaps we should not be so eager to please- maybe we should value other elements of our life as highly as we value career potential? Many of the problems reported in the study related to not making time for family, friends or personal health and wellbeing.

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