Going beyond normal work hours raises the risks for illness, stress and other unhealthy consequences.
Balancing Work And Rest: Tabulating The True Costs Of Overtime
To stay in the good graces of their bosses, to earn an extra income, or to simply get the job done, many people work overtime.
“It’s best for a person to work 8 hours, so long as their work does not involve any physical effort. For those in workshops or construction workers, their hours should be reduced to a more manageable 5 to 6 hours,” said Dr. Irving Sosa Castro, a private medical practitioner in Veracruz, Mexico.
Those who work in offices, entrepreneurs and informal vendors are often expected to work a specific shift. But such situations sometimes get out of control, with many Mexicans staying on the job several hours longer than the typical 8 hours.
“It’s important for workers to rest, since that way they can give their mind and body some recovery time,” said the doctor. “Otherwise, consequences are dire, starting with depression, excessive smoking, sleep problems, alcohol abuse, heart disease, back pain, gastric problems, osteoarthritis and diabetes. These diseases are severe, although the worst ones are the cardiovascular complications, as they could easily turn into a heart attack and kill a person.”
However, one of the main reasons for working overtime is to generate an extra income. Moreover, some workers believe if they get a head start on the next day’s work, they may have a more relaxed workday. Either way, they put their health at risk by sacrificing hours of rest.
Insomnia, stress, anxiety, and obesity are consequences of sacrificing health to improve pay with overtime, the medical expert points out.
The worst possible thing for employees to bring work home to do on the weekend. That’s a major no-no, as such people don’t rest up, despite being away from the workplace.
“I usually work 10 hours a day, from Monday to Friday, and half a day on Saturdays,” said Ismael Landa Aragón, an office worker at a banking institution dedicated to Afores (retirement accounts). “On Sundays, I try to rest all day yet sometimes feel the anxiety growing up by thinking that maybe there is something at work that I could be doing and that needs my immediate attention, despite it being my day of rest.”
This way of life has wreaked havoc on Aragón’s life.
“Even though I walk a lot, I sleep 6 hours a day tops and smoke. I try to do it as little as possible, but it isn’t easy. I suffer from hypertension and take medication to avoid a heart attack,” said Aragón.
The COVID-19 pandemic has added another level of potential problems with overtime, since many people are working remotely from home. That means more time can be spent on the job, since it’s not always clear when the workday begins and when it ends.
Faced with the possible health problems, many businesses are paying more attention to their worker’s health. Despite that, Dr. Sosa Castro believes that it’s vital for people to take it upon themselves to balance their professional and personal lives.
(Translated and edited by Mario Vázquez; edited by Matthew B. Hall)