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 study “The 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.