Long working hours kill thousands globally

A new study from the World Health Organisation has found that long working hours are killing hundreds of thousands of people a year.

The first global study of its kind showed 745,000 people died in 2016 from stroke and heart disease due to long hours. The report found that people living in South East Asia and the Western Pacific region were the most affected. The WHO also said the trend may worsen due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The research found that working 55 hours or more a week was associated with a 35% higher risk of stroke and a 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, compared with a working week of 35 to 40 hours. The study, conducted with the International Labour Organization (ILO), also showed almost three quarters of those that died as a result of working long hours were middle-aged or older men. Often, the deaths occurred much later in life, sometimes decades later, than the long hours were worked. But the impact that long working hours through the pandemic are prevalent now and more people than ever before are suffering from burnout.

Business consultant Richard Crawford Small says, “I would expect that burnout in the UK is at breaking point at the moment, as a result of many businesses being forced to operate on much small staff models because of furlough and redundancies during the pandemic. Burnout can be avoided by ensuring that there is a realistic workload and good business and pastoral support for employees.”

Looking at the causes of burnout, he says, “In my experience burnouts can be caused by a number of things, including a lack of control, losing an investor, an inability to control stock or delivery times, a failure to meet deadlines, and so on. Another significant factor in burnouts can be stress, this is often caused by excessive workloads or financial worries.”

According to Crawford Small, there are a number of ways employes can help. He says, “The key to identifying burnout is regular monitoring of staff, whether that be through 1:1 sessions, peer feedback, or by regularly asking employees to feedback on their welfare and workloads. It’s inevitable that as life begins to return to normal social functioning there will be areas of most businesses which will see a sudden exponential rise in workload, and it’s crucial that this is managed properly in order to avoid burnouts. Support for employees suffering with burnout, should in my opinion include mentoring, mental health support, as well as rewards that incentivise against the problems that can cause burnout. Keeping tabs on workplace culture and workload is also essential, as is ensuring goals are flexible, and creating an open channel of conversation at all levels of the business are key.”

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