As more people have taken their work lives home, Devan Moonsamy discusses how dangerous long working hours are for our health.
South Africa (25 May 2021) – Devan Moonsamy of the ICHAF Training Institute shares his insights about what toll working long hours takes on us. From stress in the home to life-threatening effects in the long run. These are his thoughts and they really give us all something to consider.
The World Health Organisation has recently released information highlighting how long working hours are the cause of premature death. The New York Times wrote that the study estimated that working more than 55 hours a week in a paid job resulted in 745,000 deaths in 2016 that is up 590,000 in 2000. The study further showed that around 398,000 of those deaths in 2016 were a result of people having a stroke and 347,000 was due to heart disease.
In South Africa the Basic Condition of Employment Act states that the maximum normal working time allowed is 45 hours a week. That equates to 9 hours a day. This does not mean that an employee must work 45 hours, it serves as a guideline as a contractual agreement with an employer could allow an employee to work 40 hours a week. The act just indicates an employee should not exceed 45 hours a week.
However, it seems that most employees are working past the required time. There could be a variety of reasons as to why this is the case. Since Covid-19 employees have had to work harder. With many experiencing short time and for some normal time but with a salary cut. This means that any opportunity to work overtime is seen as an opportunity to make extra money.
At the same time, employees have been working from home. Working from home does have its benefits but it has also proven to be more stressful with people working outside the 9-hour time frame. The stress of meeting deadlines, the anxiety of ensuring requirements of a task are filled and the fear that jobs are unstable have people putting much more time in their work.
The stress at work not just affects an individual but it also trickles through to their home. We are no strangers to family members accepting work calls during dinners, working on weekends and even zoom meetings during family time. The demand to be present at work has made being absent in the home front a normal thing. But this should not be the case. Work stress needs to be managed. It should not be the reason why your home becomes a second office.
What can be done to minimise work stress?
We should start prioritising tasks. Once we prioritise the importance of tasks, we would be able to deal with the most important things first and then set aside time to address matters that are not as urgent.
If the work load is becoming too much, feel confident to ask for help. A lot of times we find people biting of more than they can chew and this results in poor work quality. Asking for help should be normalised. Do not feel intimidated or insecure to ask for help.
At the same time if we feel we are unable to do a task we should be able to admit it. The ability to admit I am not capable of doing this will result in you perhaps getting training on how to complete this.
We know that the customer is always right. This means that no matter how difficult the customer, you should ensure they leave happy. Since Covid-19 companies can’t afford to have bad service. The need for excellent service does put pressure on staff. It is important to prioritise good customer service. Reduce pressure on yourself by ensuring the same service delivery with all customers. Keep your stress levels at bay by being upfront and honest with clients when you can’t deliver.
Working from home has its stress. In a conventional day you start at a specific time and knock off at a specific time. The same must apply with working from home. Don’t allow yourself to be busy after supper time with work emails. As you would clock in at a certain time of the day and clock out at work, do the same at home. This reduces work stress and it allows you to function more holistically without feeling work pressure at home.
Deadlines are important. Ensure you meet those on time. Don’t leave things to the last minute. Work according to a schedule which covers the deadlines and prevents you from cramming work in at the last minute. Remember never compromise on work quality.
At the end of it all, stress is inevitable. No matter how cool and calm a person is, stress of work always creeps up unexpectedly. Make time to focus on an activity that will allow you to destress. Take up a hobby or exercise that will shift focus from deadlines and meetings to your personal wellbeing.
Sometimes the pressure and anxiety at work leaves you feeling deflated. Prevent the dip in your health and seek professional help when you need to. Your company can find a replacement for you but your family can’t.