We live in a society of workaholics.
Although many people know it’s best to strike a balance between work and downtime, they often work far more than they should. If you can relate, statistics from a new Australian study may encourage you to set a limit so you never work more than 39 hours every week.
Too Much Work Is Bad for Health
The study, which was carried out by researchers at Australian National University, examined a pool of 8,000 Australians in the workforce.
It found when women worked more than 34 hours per week and men spent over 47 hours a week working, they were more likely to experience mental illness and symptoms of distress such as nervousness or feeling low.
According to a scientist involved in the study, anyone who took part in more than 28 hours of domestic or caretaking work without pay — 28 hours per week is the Australian average — would not be able to handle more than 39 hours of paid work weekly before experiencing problems associated with poor health.
The fact that women were more likely than men to engage in such work is the reason for their lower threshold.
Another study also linked too much work to a greater likelihood of depression. Not surprisingly, there are even more occupation-related health risks to be aware of, especially if your job involves a lot of sitting down. Sedentary jobs put people at a higher risk of issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Proposed Changes in France
Australians aren’t the only ones concerned about working too much. In France, a socialist politician named Benoit Hamon proposes instituting a 32-hour work week for residents, yet paying them an amount that reflects 35 hours spent at their jobs.
Hamon also wants to radically change the country’s welfare system by introducing payments of about €750 per month — approximately $800 — for everyone in a few years.
In theory, if people were receiving that sum of money regularly, they wouldn’t be so compelled to work as hard to make ends meet.
Americans Work Longer Hours
Despite data from an ABC News poll that indicated only 26 percent of Americans felt they worked too hard, analysts have found that not only do people from the United States work longer hours than individuals in other countries, but they also take less time off and retire later.
Most of the overworked employees are white-collar workers, and hours spent at their jobs are often not monitored by time clocks.
How to Stop Working So Much
Results from a two-year study of nursing home employees in Sweden found when they worked only six hours per day, they were more likely to have better well-being and didn’t take as much time off from work due to sickness.
Those perks alone should be enough to make you want to change your work-heavy ways. So, what can you do to cut down on the amount you work and reclaim more hours in the day for yourself?
For starters, set limits with your customers and colleagues by making it clear you’ll only answer calls or respond to emails within certain hours. An auto-responder message on your inbox can help reinforce your rule.
As tempting as it may be, don’t take work home with you on a regular basis. If superiors see you’re willing to do that often, they may start expecting the behavior.
There may be some emergency situations that make it necessary to do extra work at home during your off time, but try to avoid it otherwise.
Also, purposefully do things that take you away from your work, such as meeting friends for coffee or playing with your child in the park. During those activities, don’t stay connected to your phone or anything else that could allow you to receive occupation-related messages.
Over time, you should get into the habit of maintaining a distinct separation between work duties and down time.
You’ve just learned that working too much could be hazardous to your health. There’s no better time to make meaningful changes and become more sensible about the portion of your life that’s dedicated to work.
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.