The fact that working too much can have negative effects on your health isn’t that surprising. Indian work culture is, in some ways, toxic but seemed to have been normalized. Working more than 40+ hours has become the norm, sacrificing weekends to finish so-called “urgent tasks” are not only tolerated but motivated. And even though you know the toll it takes on your mental and physical health, it seems like you are simply stuck without a way out. But just how bad is overworking and how exactly does it affect your overall well-being?
A recent report released by the World Health Organization and the International Labour Organization says that overwork led to 745,000 deaths from stroke and heart disease in 2016. To make matters worse, that’s an increase of 29% since the year 2000.
Signs You’re Being Overworked
In the report by WHO, they defined overworking as more than 55 hours a week. The study found that working 55 or more hours per week is associated with an estimated 35% higher risk of a stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from ischemic heart disease, compared to working 35-40 hours a week.
While some might look at that definition and immediately be able to tell that you are being overworked, others have been conditioned to think otherwise. This is true especially in the pandemic wherein the lack of job security, working from home and blurring the boundaries between work and life can affect you severely. So how do you spot the signs that it’s affecting your health?
- Feeling foggy-headed
- Having trouble solving problems
- Making careless mistakes
- Being short-tempered
- Having a lower tolerance for work issues
- Feeling fatigued
- Experiencing headaches
- Feeling tense or like you can’t relax
- Feeling nauseous or sick to your stomach
- Being anxious or worried all the time
- Having a sense of dread
- The fear of going to work
- Feeling a sense of helplessness
- Avoiding coworkers who you used to have no issues with
- Getting into more conflict with people at work or loved ones at home
- Blowing up at little things
- Calling out sick more
- Making more mistakes
- Sleeping less
- Drinking more alcohol
- Using more recreational drugs
Expert Advice On The Effects Of Overworking
Overworking has been long linked to serious health conditions, but this data came before the pandemic, where people need to go outside and perform labour-intensive jobs to get the said diseases. However, it is a different topic now, especially as the world has moved to a virtual and digital setup where they have to work from the comforts of their homes. To better understand how overworking takes a toll on the body, TC46 connected with Psychiatrist Dr Fabian Almeida from Fortis Hospital, Mumbai. Here, he answers the most burning questions about changing work cultures, the effect of the pandemic on the working class and signs of work burnout.
1. How has the working culture changed with work from home becoming the norm?
The intensity of the present pandemic has made work from home a safer alternative, in view of reducing the risk of infection and subsequent illness. With the priority being the safety of the parents, grandparents or children, within the family, work from home is becoming the preferred alternative but not without its disadvantages attached too! According to research by LinkedIn in partnership with the Mental Health Foundation, employees are working longer, an extra 28 hours a month (on average) since lockdown. To begin with, the working culture appears to be more relaxed, being within the comfortable confines of one’s own home. But it is only a matter of time, within which most other aspects of the ‘work from home’ concept, begins to unfold.
2. How does going to the office during this pandemic affect people’s health (mental and physical)?
Going to the office during this pandemic, and working in the physical space, with or without other members of the office team being present, brings with it the risk of the spread of infection of the virus. This often increases the fear and associated anxiety, coupled with the uncertainty or unpredictability of the viral infection, spread and further complications. There could be a preoccupation with the virus or a complete disdain, throwing caution to the winds. The middle path, of awareness and responsibility, better outlined as Covid appropriate behaviour is advocated.
3. How do long working hours and overworking affect people, both mentally and physically?
Anything in excess can be detrimental to our mental and physical health. Prolonged work hours lead to mental and physical fatigue, to begin with. Boredom and mood swings may follow. Relationships often bear the brunt of these situations, since time for family and friends, whether in-person or online, may begin to fall short. Subsequently, this also adversely affects the availability of ‘ME-TIME’, further compromising one’s mental and physical health. Compensating fatigue with sleep and avoidance behaviour, makes the individual withdraw into their own shell, much to the despair of the others in the family or social environment.
4. What is work burnout, what are the signs of it and how does it affect people?
In the study mentioned above, 21% of the survey’s respondents say they were unable to switch off from work, whilst 11% report having a heavier workload than usual. And 58% of HR managers fear they will lose staff as a result of work-related mental health issues brought on or exacerbated by homeworking. 36% of employees report a decline in their mental wellbeing in connection to working long work hours, while 21% argue it is attributable to delivering under pressure. Continued long working hours bring about burnout in the form of increased irritability, mood swings, diminished interest in work, often accompanied by decreased effectiveness of outputs. There is a lack of that satisfying feeling of excitement from one’s job, or at times, from life itself! An impending feeling of mental and physical fatigue, along with an emotional emptiness, is often experienced in burnout. Inconsistent clarity of thought, further leading to confusion and feelings of guilt, resentment, increasing anxiety or depression, or at times, a complete disconnect or dissociation with the self and surroundings, can also be experienced.
5. What are some ways of establishing healthy work-life boundaries, creating secure work attachments and prioritizing mental health at work?
To begin with, a healthy switch-on, the switch-off mechanism can be adopted mentally, to define the borders for work and home. Balancing our professional and personal life calls for skills of self-discipline, better time-management, a sharpened sense of priority, besides learning to say ’No’ when required. Cultivating assertiveness skills can help further, avoiding the dire consequences of being aggressive or submissive in approach. Improving and increasing our mental and physical capacities, calls for a dedicated ‘ME-Time’ culture, including yoga, exercise, meditation and the power of auto-suggestion. Rightly said, ‘Self-care isn’t selfish!’ Easing off the pressure at work by having occasions like ‘theme days’, ‘de-stressor debates’, ‘team games’ and ‘interactive introspection’ can help to strike a balance at the workplace itself. Regular inputs about the value of mental health via seminars or display on notice boards are also helpful for highlighting these aspects. Appreciation and awards for those practising healthy work-life balance also help to reinforce the importance of such habits.
10 Fun, Quirky Ways To Keep Stress At Bay
Here are 10 novel stress relief ideas. Try something that works the best for you and stay stress-free, whether it’s professional or personal.
1. Go On A Cleaning Binge
Any repetitive activity, such as washing and cleaning, would probably have a great effect if practised with a dose of mindfulness.
2. Get A Massage
Studies support the claim that adults who got regular massages showed lowered stress chemicals, an increased immune response, and higher levels of oxytocin, the cuddle hormone.
3. Do A Quick Exercise
Quick bursts of movement are great if your stress is making you feel jittery or like your heart is beating faster than normal. Yoga and pranayam can help relieve stress easily and aid your mental health in a ton of ways.
4. Dance Like No One Is Watching
Putting on your favourite playlist and letting loose is, of course, good exercise, which is a long-studied stress-reliever. It also engages the mind and brings on feelings of inspiration.
5. Time To Stress Cook
The need to prep, choose a recipe, collect the ingredients and go step-by-step to make the food can ease anxiety caused by stress. So let your creativity flow, choose a recipe that excites you and cook something delicious that soothes your mind, body and soul. #Shopdesi for organic and locally sourced ingredients at the Red Dot Shop here.
6. Have Sex
Studies have found that sex was a stress reliever for couples in a satisfying relationship. Engaging in sexual activities has a buffering effect of intimacy on stress and leads to a better mood all around.
7. Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
Progressive muscle relaxation involves relaxing all the muscles in your body, group by group. PMR helps reduce anxiety and calm breathing.
8. Engage In Artwork
Doesn’t matter if you choose an adult colouring book, doodling on paper, drawing with pencils or creating on a canvas. Artwork, of all types, helps relieve stress.
9. Engage Your Senses
Intentionally engaging our five senses; hearing, touch, smell, taste, and sight are incredibly powerful tools in providing instant relief in a hectic world. Aromatherapy has real benefits for stress relief, it can help you to feel energized, more relaxed, or more present in the moment. Buy Positive Shifts’ Mental Peace Spritz Cleansing & Healing spray at the Red Dot Shop here.
10. Try Touch Therapy
Hugging and cuddling can slow the release of the stress chemical cortisol and increase your flow of endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that counter depression and stress, according to various studies. Oxytocin also causes a reduction in blood pressure.
Covid-19 has drastically changed the work culture all around the world and with work from home being the new normal, it becomes necessary for you to take care of your mental health. Watch this video to learn about 5 ways to deal with burnout at work.