Blue Water Healthy Living

How much work is too much?

It's time to ask yourself some tough questions.

By Karrie Beck

Sometimes it is difficult to see the writing on the wall. Finding a balanced work life can be overwhelming. Realizing you are stressed out and learning how to cope with it is a beast all its own.

Are we overdoing it? Monday-Friday, 9-5? Not so much. According to Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the average American work day consists of approximately 34.4 hours. However, full-time American workers on average put in 47 hours a week. Aligning closer to a six-day work week, rather than five. In a recent Gallup Work and Education poll, of those employed full-time, four out of ten report working at least 50+ hours a week. US News reported in 2014 that Americans placed 17th for the longest work week as compared with 38 other countries. Beating out (or losing perhaps) to fellow peers: Australia, Austria, Sweden, Netherlands, among others respectively. Additionally, the countries listed as having the longest and shortest work weeks, Mexico, leading the group with 42.85 hours weekly and Germany coming in last, averaging just 26.37 hours a week. With 168 hours in a week, and approximately forty to fifty-five hours a week spent on sleep, what amount should be spent working? The question becomes, how much work is too much?

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How do I know if I’m working too much?

According to Men’s Health, there are a few ways to determine whether or not you are.

Do you feel guilty while doing other things in place of work? If you have a hard time with this, it is suggested that you try breaking a sweat. Being active does just that; it actively takes your mind off things. Try competing in a sport, going to the gym, or jumping on the treadmill. You may find it’s easier to separate from work following a much needed mental separation.

Are you finding you’re often not actually accomplishing anything at work? Research shows that frequent breaks are essential for creativity, better focus, and greater results. Turns out the brain was not designed for hours of long, intense focus. Further, some studies say when you work more, you produce less. Intense, shorter bursts followed by a rest period actually resulted in better work output. When asked how he came up with idea of relativity, Albert Einstein was quoted as saying: “I thought of that while riding my bike.” – Albert Einstein. Good enough for me.

Are your eyes starting to ware out? According to Joshua Dunaief, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Pennsylvania, hours with your eyes in books and on screens can induce nearsightedness. “The first sign: It becomes hard to see in the distance in low light, like when you’re driving at night,” Dunaief says. Yikes, right?!

Are your friends and family constantly complaining about your schedule? “When you start hearing from multiple people that you’re never around, it’s a strong indication that you’re neglecting your relationships.” says Dr. Malissa Clark, PhD and author for Men’s Health.

Are you always the last one to leave your place of work? Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., author of Chained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, he indicates, “…excessive hours are linked to physical illness, including heart disease… That means you’re trading a few extra hours of productivity tonight for a few sick days later.” Or worse, we all know the impact too much stress can have on our health. Double, yikes!

Who determines how much is too much? Ultimately, no one can determine how much is too much for another individual. Do those who are unaware of how much they devote to their work honestly ever take the time think about it? Are we selfish because we want to make that extra dollar, and/or reach that next corporate level? Or are we selfish because we’ve learned to take the time to invest in other facets and interests in our lives? If this seems like more questions, than answers, it is! The call to action then becomes, if I reflect on this simple notion at all, perhaps I’m further ahead than if I’d never considered it.

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