Most workers have to clock in overtime at some point in their careers, and they do so for a variety of reasons. It could be because of a big project with a tight deadline, the desire to make time-and-a-half pay or the nature of the job. Others work long hours just because they are workaholics. Yet if you’re finding yourself working late into the evening most nights, you may be harming your health.
According to a British study — which looked at more than 2,000 middle-aged British workers for an average of nearly six years — employees who work at least 11 hours per day were up to 2.43 times more likely to experience depression compared with those who worked between seven and eight hours a day.
Andrea Ballard, HR consultant and career coach, says the following signs mean your job may be taking over your life:
- A whole week goes by and you have no conversation or contact with anyone who isn’t related to a work issue or errand (e.g., pizza delivery guy and dry cleaner).
- You spend zero time outdoors except for your commute to work or other work-related events.
- You can’t remember the last time you worked out, took an exercise class or even took a walk.
- You dread vacations, since it just means you’ll have to work even more before you depart or when you come back to get caught up. You may even cancel vacations, just to avoid getting behind.
What you can do about it
- Aim for balance. “When you work too much, it can throw your entire personal life out of whack, too,” says Nicole Williams, author of “Earn What You’re Worth: A Wildly Sophisticated Approach to Investing in Your Career — and Yourself.” “Now is the time to be an advocate for yourself and your needs. Drink lots of water, get enough sleep, make an effort to eat healthy foods and squeeze in some exercise.”
- Take a break. “Take a midday break,” says Brenda Della Casa, author of “Cinderella Was a Liar.” “If you can’t take a full hour to sit in the sun or take a walk, schedule two 15-minute breaks where you go out of the office to do something completely unrelated to the office. Call a friend, listen to your iPod or browse a bookstore.”
- Put the phone down. Karen Southall Watts, consultant and career coach, encourages workers to put themselves on a “data diet.” “You do not need to be wired — i.e., connected to your job and the whole world every second,” Southall says. “Check email in batches. Ask colleagues to limit texting to essential messages only. Schedule your social media time. Let co-workers know that you intend to focus and devote total attention to important projects, because this will create a higher-quality output.”
- Speak up. “Work/life balance must be more than a buzzword,” says Tiffani Murray, career coach at PersonalityOnaPage.com and author of “Stuck on Stupid: A Guide for Today’s Professional Stuck in a Rut.” “Your manager or leadership in your organization should be supportive of creating a balanced work environment for you.” Murray says that if you aren’t getting the support from your boss, speak with someone in human resources to discuss how you can get a better handle on your workload and work hours.