How Working Overtime Is Ruining Your Life

Last Update: January 4, 2023

The clock strikes 7, the sky is already turning dark purple. Forget about dinner—now it’s “Put the kids to bed, honey, I’ll be home when I can.”

Eight o’clock comes along, then 9, then 10—still at it. No question of dedication here. But even all the praise in the world might not offset the toll this “work hard, rest never” lifestyle takes on health.

Whether hustling for that big promotion or caving in to pressure from the monster boss, most of us are working longer and longer hours—the average American professional works about 47 hours each week.

Staying late at work has consequences—and we’re not just talking about sacrificing time for a personal life. Besides forcing a person to give up on any semblance of work-life balance, working long hours can…

Decrease life expectancy

The average person spends as much as 75 percent of their day in a chair. Even if you hit the gym after work, the eight hours just spent sitting have irreparably damaged your health. Prolonged sitting can increase  risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and overall mortality. Working more than 55 hours per week can also increase your risk of stroke.

Cause all kinds of back pain

Sitting puts pressure on your spine, and the longer you sit, the worse it gets. This pressure can lead to back and neck pain, aching joints, herniated discs, and other spinal problems.

Weaken muscles

Standing, walking, and even sitting up straight engage your abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and glutes. Slouching in an office chair engages none of them, and over time, these muscles will degenerate.

Disrupt your sleep cycle

Staying up until midnight one night and 3 a.m. the next is screwing with your body’s internal clock. We’re creatures of habit, and our bodies function best when we stick to a usual sleep schedule. Irregular hours mess up our circadian rhythm, and make it difficult to get quality rest.

Put you at risk for anxiety and depression

Typically, people who sit all day at work have a much higher likelihood of developing anxiety or depression.

Fog up the brain

Wonder why you always hit that mid-afternoon slump when all you want is a nap? Your desk chair could have something to do with it. Not moving around slows everything in the body down, bringing blood flow down to a sluggish chug and taking fuel away from the brain.

Harm your job performance

Though many assume working more hours means getting more done, study after study shows that staying late night after night actually hampers productivity. Another study revealed that professionals saw a decline in their reasoning skills, vocabulary, and overall cognitive function after working 55 hours a week or more for five years.

Exacerbate stress

Eighty percent of workers say they feel stressed at the office, and this negative emotion can have serious consequences. When it comes to your health, stress can trigger a litany of problems, including insomnia, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and ulcers. Stress is equally detrimental to the office, too, causing nearly one million workers to call in sick each day and even leading to 700 cases of workplace homicide each year.

We don’t know about you, but that’s more than enough to convince us to clock out on time more often.

Illustration by Carey Reisz

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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