How Hours Worked Per Week Impacts Employee Burnout and Their Mental Health

Are you working more hours than your brain can handle?

Male employee exhausted by work schedule and hours worked.

Many workers across various industries have experienced changes in their work schedules and the number of hours worked. Select Health recently conducted a poll through LinkedIn to learn more about how many hours people generally work per week, and the top answer was between 40 and 60 hours.

In many positions, any amount over 35 hours per week is considered full-time, and increasing the number of hours worked in a week can hurt health and well-being.

Although employers may not have been prepared to send their workers home indefinitely, many stepped up to the challenge and utilized technology to protect their workforce from the threat of uncertainty. But employees who did go remote may have noticed a significant uptick in the number of hours worked in the average week.

Although remote work options are often marketed with the appeal of flexibility, those who work from home often find that they’re working longer hours. When working in an official office, it’s easier to separate work time from at-home time because employees leave the workplace. When an employee’s office is next to the dinner table (or nearby), it’s easy to answer an email or two long after the workday is done.

Even employees who don’t work remotely may have experienced an increase in the average number of hours worked due to the blend of in-office and remote working teams.

How many hours is too many?

Most employers consider 35 or more hours per week to be full-time. But working more than 40 hours per week could hurt employees’ physical and mental health. According to a study performed at the Australian National University, a healthy limit on work is 39 hours per week.

Those who do manual labor may find that the added pressure on their bodies is too much. Even workers who mainly sit at a computer all day can experience back pain and an increased risk of heart disease due to a more sedentary lifestyle.

Mental health can also suffer as a result of longer working hours. Anxiety, increased stress, and depression have all been linked to an extensive weekly workload. These mental health concerns are particularly prevalent in employees between the ages of 20 and 35, but they can impact anyone who is taking on a lot of work.

How to avoid burnout?

Another problem that can occur when working long hours is burnout, or intense exhaustion caused by prolonged stress in the workplace. Burnout can negatively affect even the best employee, threatening their well-being and productivity.

Those who feel burned out due to working long hours might experience stress-related symptoms, such as:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Exhaustion or fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Feelings of resentment
  • Restlessness

Burnout has also been linked to physical symptoms, including gastric distress and headaches. Higher levels of pressure at work, whether from external or internal forces, tend to increase the risk of burnout. When employees become burned out, their feelings and emotions can trickle down to other team members, causing a drop in engagement levels and morale.

Avoiding burnout is essential in maintaining positivity at work and keeping productivity levels high. If employees feel burned out, it’s important to reach out and talk to them. Talking to someone can help address what is causing them to feel burned out and serve as a guide in making the right adjustments.

A healthy work-life balance can also help reduce the risk of burnout. Working long hours makes it hard to balance personal and professional needs, but it’s crucial to make time for the things that matter. Enforcing boundaries at work can also help employees adjust their schedules and work fewer hours during the week.

Related: Finding Freedom from Burnout

Tips to unplug and recharge

Whether you’re a manager or employee, the idea of “unplugging” from work may be more difficult if you work from home, as the devices you use to tackle your tasks are likely within easy reach at all times. But disconnecting yourself from your job can help to reduce the risk of burnout, as you can set time aside for yourself and your personal needs. If you’re tempted to check emails after hours, consider putting your laptop away or closing the door to your office. Silence or turn off the notifications on your phone so you’re not interrupted by work messages.

Recharging yourself physically and emotionally is also a useful tool. Taking care of your body can help you recharge your mind, so try stretching for a few minutes every so often or taking a walk around the office to get the blood flowing. Making it a priority to get enough sleep every night also makes a big difference in how you feel every day.

Mentally recharging might involve listing your accomplishments or taking a break from your duties. Doing an art or craft project can also soothe a tired, worn-out mind. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, try writing your feelings down in a journal.

Related: 5 Ways to Rest and Refresh Your Brain

Although working long hours might feel like the new normal, you don’t have to let it become normal in your life. By establishing and adhering to boundaries, setting aside time to unplug and recharge, and identifying burnout risks, you can figure out a professional strategy that aligns with your personal needs.

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