Long Working Hours and Psychosocial Risks Leading to Serious Health Complications – A Study Reveals
Over 700,000 deaths occur each year globally, arising from long working hours and other stress-related occurrences in the workplace, reports the World Health Organization.
Working overtime is a regular activity for most of the working-class population across the world. We are no strangers to burning the proverbial ‘midnight oil’ as we strive for perfection in our relative trades. Success is attributable to hard work – this is, of course, is a social construct people attach to the very idea of pursuing perfection in one’s career.
The question remains… what are the consequences of overworking ourselves? Mental wellbeing has the current position in the spotlight – within the borders of South Africa, this ideal has been positioned as one of the most important health challenges facing the nation, aided by the societal pressures of the current pandemic and the demand on the employer and their employees, to do more with fewer resources. Both mental and physical wellbeing can be negatively affected by overworking, self-inflicted and job-related stresses, and according to statistics, the rates increase year on year, leading to alarming trends that if left unchecked, can have harmful and even, fatal repercussions.
With the emerging trend of remote working being implemented by many companies due to the Covid-19 pandemic, often, the lines between office hours and personal hours become blurred, resulting in employees working extended hours daily without managing their time. Such behavior may contribute to exposing your employees to over-exertion and psychosocial occupational risks. A “catch-22” scenario is now in play – protecting employees from exposure risks from the Covid-19 virus, may also, be contributing to mental health and possible longer-term conditions.
Psychosocial occupational risks affecting health
Psychosocial risk factors within the workplace are common products of poor work design, excessive working hours, organization and management, and poor social work ambiance. Such risks can result in negative psychological outcomes – the most common being work-related stress and burnout. Some of the lesser-known, yet more severe outcomes, will only manifest themselves later in life. Employees experience stress when the demands of their jobs are higher than their capacity to cope with those demands. This has an equally negative effect on the organization, which can include unprosperous overall business performance, rising absenteeism and even, increased accident and injury statistics.
The psychosocial occupational risk factors can eventually lead to the manifestation of physical ailments brought on by excessive or prolonged stress, ultimately reducing life expectancy. It is not only the mind that is at risk… eventually, the body will also follow suit.
What are the significant medical conditions arising from unchecked working conditions?
The most fatal among the outcomes, include heart disease (the most work-associated disease) and is prevalent in cases involving the male segment of the world’s middle-aged working population. Although its impact can vary with age, it commonly occurs in patients between the age of 60 and 79, and the study concluded that most affected patients were working an average of 55 hours per week at the peak of their careers, that is between the ages of 45 and 74.
A further, and more common condition arising from overworking and poor stress management, is stroke. Strokes or Cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) occur when there is a loss of blood flow to part of the brain, resulting in a degradation of brain cells due to the lack of nutrients and oxygen being carried through. Without the necessary health measures put in place to manage the development of such a condition, though not necessarily fatal, may force disability later in one’s life.
What can be done to manage the risks?
As with any occupational health and safety risk, systematic and logical approaches to combatting such risks can be employed at all levels of the organization – both the employee and the employer should play a role.
- Medical surveillance plans with regular employee screening offer one of the most effective methods of identifying employees under the effects of burnout, excessive stress, and overall physical wellbeing. By regularly monitoring biological changes in the system, such as elevated blood pressure, difficulty breathing due to constant anxiety, and urinalysis among others, employers can identify potential health risks leading to long-term negative effects.
- Mental wellness programs can provide employees with platforms to learn to manage work stress, cope with work demands and improve overall mental wellbeing.
- Subscribing to meditation and relaxation techniques from an employee’s perspective can assist to reduce anxiety levels and create a mental environment to calm the mind.
- A cohesive Psychosocial environment may be developed that provide the employee and employer a platform to work together to mitigate the risks in the workplace and such activities may include job description design, setting mutually attainable expectations, and evolving company culture to be more receptive to identifying and addressing the psychological and physiological impact on the workforce.
Regardless of your business size or the industry you compete in, a medical surveillance solution provides a multitude of benefits for your employees and your organization. Approach the professionals in the field that will help you put your surveillance program in place.
Care Net Consultants are specialists in the field of occupational health, physical and mental wellness. Their professional and empathetic team is ready to help you build and maintain a healthy workforce that will not only deliver your company the results you want but be happier in their workspace – a happy and healthy workforce equals a happy and healthy organization.