Long hours, growing to-do lists, looming deadlines, increased expectations from employers – these are facts of life for many American workers. The stresses of the job are starting to take their toll on employees.
The workload is proving to be counterproductive for workers in the U.S., but so many of us find our jobs demand it. The shift in our country toward more hours and greater demands from employers is causing fatigue, burnout, increased risks for injuries and illnesses, and less productivity.
Americans Work Hard – Very Hard
American workers put in more hours every week than workers in every other industrialized country. They worker longer days, take fewer vacations and retire at a later age. One study found that, every year, Americans work 25 percent more hours than our European counterparts.
We are also working more than previous generations of Americans did. In 1979, U.S. workers worked an average of 1,687 hours a year. By 2013, Americans reported working an average of 1,836 hours per year.
Around 40 percent of full-time workers in the U.S. report working more than 50 hours per week, according to a 2014 poll by Gallup. Nearly one-fifth of full-time employees and 25 percent of salaried workers work at least 60 hours a week.
Our Jobs Are Taking a Toll
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, one provider of employee-assistance programs, Workplace Options, said that 70 percent of calls placed to their phone-counseling lines cite work-related stress and anxiety as major problems in their lives. The company has also noticed a steep increase in the number of those calls compared to the average for 2016.
The Journal mentions that the most recent large-scale survey from Gallup on worker burnout found that over 40 percent of workers reported being so stressed that they were burning out.
Fatigue Puts Us at Risk
The more we work and the more stresses our job puts on our shoulders, the less likely we are to get adequate sleep, which also presents several health risks. A lack of sleep decreases people’s awareness and make them more prone to errors. This is especially concerning for people who have jobs that demand the highest levels of safety, such as drivers or medical professionals, two occupations that are notorious for causing fatigue among workers.
Job-related stress presents yet another risk to workers. Stress makes us more likely to be depressed, experience anxiety and have heart problems. We are constantly learning about all the other ways stress takes a toll on our lives. Most recently, studies suggest that stress is heavily linked to obesity.
It’s Not Worth It
Perhaps the most frustrating part of the situation facing Americans who work long hours is that putting in all that extra time does little to boost our productivity. Research suggests that worker productivity drops significantly after a 50-hour work week and plummets exponentially after 55 hours per week.
When employees work longer hours and encounter higher levels of fatigue, they are more likely to quit their job, miss work and leave projects unfinished. In other words, the extra time workers clock at their jobs is not only impacting their productivity, health and safety, it is also impacting employers by decreasing employee output, increasing burnout-related employee health expenses and increasing turnover and absentee rates.
Unemployment rates increased sharply during the Great Recession, and many employees who didn’t lose their jobs found that their responsibilities increased. Though more people have rejoined the workforce since that time, workers have been finding that there have been little to no changes in their work routines.
It is in everyone’s best interest to address this problem before it impacts a worker’s health. Burnout sets in slowly, but once it takes over the life of a worker, it can set both the employee and the employer back for a long time. If you are a beleaguered worker or a concerned boss, don’t hesitate to make your voice heard. Take steps to make your workplace a happier, healthier and more rested environment.
John Tucker has been working alongside workplace injury attorneys for years in his role of Director of Claims Management at Kaplan Lawyers PC.