November 27, 2013

Working long hours could cost you your health

First, a little about me…

Before Alivia came along, I worked as a Quality Assurance Representative for IBM. It was a challenging position for me since it was out of my field of expertise.  Of course, I would never turn down an opportunity to learn something new and acquire different skills than what had been on my resume for the past 10 years.  It was particularly a no-brainer for me moving into the position as it was something I most certainly had interest in.  I had no doubt, I would grow to, not only love it but, be great at it as well!

Working long hours could cost you your health via Cropped Stories

When the position became work from home, I wanted to do cartwheels right there in the office.  Instead I maintained my cool and responded with a subtle nod of my head followed by a calm "okay" as if it were no big deal.  Inside I was smiling like an idiot and already imagining myself working in my pi's and slippers!  Being able to roll out of bed and into the office chair I would eventually buy for myself to complete my office space was more exciting to me than Christmas morning!  Boy did I luck out!  Or so I thought.

Don't get me wrong, working from home had it's advantages, but the disadvantages were far greater!  Not only did my work relationships become impersonal (never being able to see anyone face to face), but I became quite lonely.  Other than a conference call, contact with people became nonexistent and that wasn't even the worst of it.

Only into a month of working from home, without realizing it, I was putting in about 50 - 60 hours a week.  Easily.  And why not; everything was right there at my fingertips. It was convenient.  In fact, it was TOO convenient.  I took calls frequently after 5:00pm, reviewed contracts into the wee hours of the night, put out fires when I should have been eating lunch, and replied to emails instead of catching a matinee on a Sunday afternoon.  Some would call this dedication, and while that was definitely part of it, it was also an addiction of sorts.  Not out of the ordinary for me as I was always the type of worker that put in more hours than the position required.  And regardless of whether the position was work-from-home.  Let's just say I have a difficult time starting things without finishing them. You know that saying "Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today"; well, I swear, I was Thomas Jefferson in another life.  Throw in an unhealthy obsession with detail and it just became UGLY!

Now, a little over 4 years later, being a stay at home mom, wife, cook, house cleaner, and blogger, I find myself in familiar territory - working too many hours!  It wouldn't be such a bad thing if it didn't affect my health. Your health.  Everyone's health.

WORKING LONG HOURS COULD COST YOU YOUR HEALTH

With that said, let's discuss the symptoms you may be experiencing from working long hours. Symptoms you may have not even associated with work, such as:

Headaches
Exhaustion
Difficulties focusing
Short term memory loss
Anxiety
Nausea
Weight loss or gain
Depression

For the record, I experienced all of these symptoms.  I know; lucky me, right?  At the time, I didn't know the following behaviors would contribute to both my physical and emotional well being:

Staring at a computer screen all day long
Sitting in a chair or on the couch for hours at a time
Meeting deadlines early
Skipping lunch or meals in general
Taking on new projects before old ones are completed
Picking up the slack
Not knowing when or how to call it a night

With blogging, I would have thought the hours it entailed were far fewer than an office job.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  What started out as a hobby turned into a “real” job.  When I wasn’t tending to Alivia, I was working on my blog.  And because tending to Alivia occupied most of my time during the day, I was staying up late at night to make up for what I couldn’t get done during the day. 

If working long hours, skipping meals, staying up nights, etc. sounds familiar, you may want to refer to some of these alarming facts before continuing the path you are currently on. 

  • According to The American Journal of Epidemiology, Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) is associated with working long hours. Scary if you ask me.  Their conclusion from observational studies "suggest an approximately 40% excess risk of CHD in employees working long hours."  Yikes!
  • According to CNN (Healthline.com), "working long hours appears to substantially increase a person's risk of becoming depressed, regardless of how stressful the actual work is".
  • Even more equally alarming news from The Huffington Post outlines the risks associated with working long hours.  Risks include everything from depression, chronic diseases, health problems related to lack and quality of sleep, cardiovascular problems, and stress, to eye strain and negative effects on cognitive performance.

So, instead of compromising your health, maybe it’s time to find that happy-medium.  Not sure how to cut back hours?  Here are some ideas to help you get started.

  1. PRIORITIZE: Start thinking about why you are responding to an email that was sent to you 5 minutes ago, when a flagged one has been sitting in your inbox since last week.  Unless it’s an urgent matter, that new email can wait.  Sometimes I wonder why I’m working on updating my website pages when I haven’t published a post for 3 days.  Additionally, try to let go of the obsession to finish everything you start that same day.  Set realistic deadlines, and use the entire time you’ve allotted yourself for a particular project to complete it.  When you learn to put something down and come back to it at a later date, you are conditioning your brain to rest and recharge.  Don’t be surprised if you find you are more productive the next day.
  2. JUST SAY NO: Afraid that saying no will make you appear uneager or lazy?  On the contrary, people that say no demonstrate confidence, responsibility, control over their schedule, and time management skills. 
  3. CALL A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER: Ask them what’s going on.  Get lost in them. Any conversation that isn’t about you is a good one at this point.  You’ll be surprised at how quickly a selfless discussion can pull you right out of your work zone and remind you there’s a life outside of work.  You may even be apt to wrap it up at work and head over to see that friend or family member in person!
  4. START COOKING:  If possible, cook new and tempting things. Things you’ve bookmarked in your favorite cookbook and never had the time to make.  You know the foods I’m talkin’ about.  The ones that have you practically foaming at the mouth.  Come noon time, if you can even wait that long, you’ll be itching to drop everything to dive into deliciousness! 

At the very least, I hope this post taught you something new.  Of course, I’d be even more excited if it prompted a change to the amount of hours you work going forward. 

If you have some helpful tips on how to call it quits at a decent hour, I’d love to hear them.  Feel free to drop me a comment!

If you missed my previous post, The PINcentive Blog Hop (Week 12) & $175 Giveaway, feel free to stop by, party with us, and enter for your chance to win $100 in PayPal cash, a $75 Amazon Gift Card, and free ad space right here on Cropped Stories!  As a reminder, the winners of our blog hop get their content pinned a minimum of 31 times, so bring it!

Also, if you haven’t yet entered my “Just Because” giveaway, I hope you’ll check it out!  But hurry, it closes in less than a day!  We are giving away a $100 eGift Card from American Express (perfect for your holiday shopping)!

Lastly, don’t forget to come back on Friday as I’ll be co-hosting That Friday Blog Hop with Rebecca at XOXO Rebecca.  Hope to see you then!

8 comments :

  1. I'd love to know how to balance it better, because I find myself falling into this trap all the time! I've been up past 2 working the past two nights!

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  2. Thank you for this post. More people need to know that not only working long hours but the stress associated with it can truly impact your health. I believe completely that my long hours and high stress position is what led partly to my developing Rheumatoid Arthritis. The disease has forced me to re-evaluate my life and my career choices and now I'm learning to be a stay at home Mom. It has it's own level of stress but it's not nearly as much as stress as a Mom and stress of a career combined. We all need to slow down and enjoy life more. :)

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  3. Great tips and crazy to think how our long hours working from home could cause all sorts of problems and more. Thank you for sharing and definite food for thought. Happy Thanksgiving!! :)

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  4. This is a great post (pinned it). Working from home can be great, but it can also mean that the fine line between work and home gets exceptionally blurry! You've got great tips outlined here. Sometimes you have to remind yourself when you're "off the clock" and really stay away from the work that's right there.

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  5. Thanks for sharing, Elena. I agree that it would be awesome to be able to work from home on some days. But actually I do enjoy my hour of commuting on the bus, when I can read a book or just relax, being out of the house most of the time. I do work long hours, and I don't get enough sleep, but I'm not planning on burning out anytime soon :-)

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  6. So true. All of it! I work from home one day a week which is enough to help me balance work and family. I don't like feel so disconnected to the people I manager or co-workers I should be interacting with. And I can't even tell you the hours going into my blog right now. I am embarrassed by it!

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  7. Your tips for working at home ( and for blogging ) are really great! =)
    Thank you!

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  8. This is so me. Working in an office setting for so many years, I know apply it to my home life as well. Actually more than ever it seems like and it's not a good thing

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