Overtime is an exhausting and generally undesirable part of any work. But did you know that working overtime can have a negative impact on your mental health? Various studies have found a link between long working hours and depression. And depression is not the only mental disorder that has been associated with overtime. In this article, we will discuss how long hours can affect your mental health and what to do to address this issue. 

What is Overtime Work?

Unfortunately, a lot of employees as well as employers do not have a correct understanding of what overtime work is

According to GOV. In the UK, overtime usually means any time that a person works beyond their normal working hours. And normal working hours are the hours stated in your employment contract. Remember, you do not have to work more than 48 hours per week and if you are asked to work more, the conditions should be in writing and signed by you. 

The big downside of overtime is that in some cases it is not monitored. For example, if you work from home, you may be working longer than necessary without realising it. Remote workers sometimes work long hours but their work is not recognized and appreciated. The responsibility might fall on the employer as well as an employee depending on a specific situation. Therefore, it is crucial that both parties understand the consequences of working overtime. 

Mental Health and Overtime Work: What is the association?

Before we move on to how exactly working long hours impacts mental health, let’s discuss whether these two are linked at all. 

The Hordaland Health Study examined whether work hours are associated with mental disorders. The study found that long working hours are linked with higher anxiety and depression levels. 

Moreover, the studyThe Effect of Worktime Control on Overtime Employees’ Mental Health and Work-Family Conflict” found that working overtime may increase the risk of various psychological problems. Additionally, the authors suggest employers thoroughly analyse the need for overtime work and allow it only if it is necessary. 

How Long Working Hours Impact Mental Health?

Working overtime leads to increased work-related stress that in the long term has significant negative effects on mental health. Employees that work long hours experience anxiety and pressure constantly. Furthermore, overtime work means that people rest and relax less which results in poor sleep quality and fatigue. Employees that constantly do not get enough sleep experience exhaustion which influences their productivity and quality of work they deliver. 

Working overtime once in a while is totally fine as long as the employee agrees to it. However, working overtime regularly slowly decreases the quality of life and creates major mental health challenges. Because long working hours means that employees spend less time with their friends and family, they experience more personal conflicts. This demotivates a lot of people and increases the chance of depression. 

While sometimes it is necessary to work overtime, long working hours should not be a permanent solution. Because in the end, it has a lot of disadvantages. Sadly, many employers think that working overtime is just an inconvenience for their staff members. They do not realise that it actually decreases productivity and level of engagement. This is why instead of changing strategy they push employees to work longer and “stop being lazy”. As a result, their approach ends up hurting the company more by creating a toxic work environment that affects employees’ mental well-being.


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Dangers of Working Overtime

Overtime work not only affects mental health but physical health and employees’ social life as well. The negative outcomes of working long times are various and it is important that both employees and employers are informed about them. 

Negative health effects

As we discussed, overtime work is associated with a higher risk of mental disorders. Unfortunately, this is not the only health effect of working overtime. Employees who work overtime regularly are more exposed to physical health risks as well.

Employees with desk jobs often experience back and shoulder pain due to long hours of sitting. These employees are also more likely to get spine problems. Furthermore, employees that work longer hours are more likely to have eyesight-related issues. 

Employees with physical workloads are also more exposed to health risks when they work overtime. A lot of them have to repeat repetitive motions for hours at a time which leads to different diseases and injuries.

Work-related injuries 

Due to long working hours, the chance of work-related mistakes is increased. Exhaustion and fatigue are common accompanying effects of working overtime. This naturally leads to more mistakes and work-related injuries. 

Social Life Effects

Employees with long working hours have noted that working overtime has negatively affected their social life. Because they spend long hours working, their loved ones feel neglected which creates conflicts in a relationship. Some employees have also noted that they do not have time to build new relationships. 

Decreased Productivity

A common misconception about working overtime is that a person works more and completes more tasks. Sadly, this is not true very often. While the employee has more time to do things it does not necessarily mean that more things are done. Working overtime causes stress, exhaustion, and fatigue which negatively affect productivity. So, very often working long hours leads to less productivity. 

Less Job Satisfaction

This one is especially important for employers who want to foster a supportive environment and have a team with high loyalty. Even if you pay well for overtime work, it is still associated with more stress for employees therefore, it leads to decreased job satisfaction. The money cannot make up for all the missed weekends or rest the person might get. Even if technically employees love the extra money they earn, subliminally they still resent their work. 

Getting mental health support for your workplace

Don’t forget that mental health is one of the greatest predictors of workplace happiness and productivity. Help your employees feel more in control of their stress and worries by giving them on-demand access to regular therapy sessions. SupportRoom’s dedicated team of therapists are always on the other side of the internet connection to help your employees talk about whatever is on their mind.

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