Is Putting in Those Extra Hours Really a Benefit? Experts say No.
When the world came to a grinding halt in what seems like 27 years ago, being in the condominium management business, we were fortunate enough to keep our jobs (and then some) and work exclusively from home. In the immortal words of the ‘Fresh Prince’, suddenly we found our work day turned upside down having to relocate and spend our days at home with little to no in-person interaction, but with an increased volume of work due to everyone else being home and having time to deal with problems as they occur.
While some adapted to the change with few issues, some found the change to be on par with going over Niagara Falls in a half broken barrel. Before, we had the small ability to separate our work and home lives unless someone decided to plant a shrub in their front yard at 6 pm and ‘accidentally’ punch a hole in an irrigation line or have a massive water leak into a home unexpectedly or complain about their nosy neighbor. Without warning, we found our computers and papers scattered all over our kitchens as we attempted in vain to avoid getting pasta sauce all over the latest budget while making dinner.
The life of a condo manager never stops; there is always something to do: an email to answer, a phone call to take, a report to write, follow ups to complete. Working exclusively from home only exacerbates the urge to “do just a few more things” each day or “just quickly check my email” on the weekend in hopes of getting ahead of the never-ending onslaught of work, which inevitably takes longer than anticipated. The never-ending onslaught being like lava as the majority of people are now working from home and seeing issues that may or may not be there. Suddenly, a glance at the clock makes you awkwardly aware that you’ve tacked another couple of hours onto your regular work day or eaten up your alleged rest time without realization. While this approach can certainly be beneficial from a productivity standpoint (although many, including myself and my superiors, would disagree), experts have determined that doing so is causing a significant increased risk to your health.
A global study, published in Environment International, estimates that nearly 750,000 people died in 2016 from working at least 55 hours per week. This number is up significantly from 2000, where the number was 29% lower. The study showed that heart disease and stroke were the two most common ailments to cause death among those who died.
Maria Neira, director of the Department of Environment, Climate Change, and Health at the World Health Organization (WHO) is quoted as saying,
Working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard. It’s time that we all, governments, employers and employees, wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death.
We’ve all been guilty of checking our email at night while half watching reruns of The Office and comparing ourselves to a character (*coughJimcough*), but need to be more conscious of not letting our work and personal lives become one. Not unlike having an after dinner cigarette, this habit is one that could eventually kill you. While our company was ahead of the remote work game, having practices in place long before we were forced to do so, this is a first for many companies. With the knowledge that remote work is sustainable, it’s probable that other companies will adopt a similar approach. As such, for those in a similar situation, it’s important to find that Zen-like balance between your work and your home life. Trust me — ignoring the non-urgent question about getting a parking pass at 8 pm isn’t going to cause a catastrophe or ruin your career.
What do I mean by this elusive Zen-like balance? I mean taking a good look at your days and discovering what is good and bad. This could be starting work a little earlier than normal and using the scheduled email feature in Google to have your emails send at a “socially acceptable” work hour or it might be physically leaving your home for a walk over lunch and cranking the tunes as you cruise to get your 10,000 steps in. Perhaps it’s taking time to joke and enjoy a non-mandated chat with a colleague about the new girl they’re dating or how their spouse ended up with their car in the impound. Maybe it’s just having a cup of tea and cruising Facebook to find out if you’re a Yukon Gold or Russet potato.
Have dedicated work hours (the best you can — some of us in the 24/7 business have to give and take), close your email, close your office door, walk away from your computer. With summer upon us, take advantage of the weather and go for a walk or lime scoot, spend time with your loved ones, have some fun. The email will still be there tomorrow, although if you grind yourself down, you might not be.