British Columbia

Working overtime? Here's how it affects your health

Working long hours can bring in a lot more dough — but it also can increase your chances of being diagnosed with a chronic illness, according to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman.

Workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman says working long hours can increase fatigue, injuries

Working extended hours regularly can be damaging to both your short-term and long-term health, according to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman. (Canadian Press)

Working overtime can be a great way to bank some bucks while showcasing to the boss that you're committed to the work that you do.

But sometimes the extra benefits come at a cost.

According to workplace psychologist Jennifer Newman, working extended hours can induce a lot more than just fatigue.

She joined guest host Laura Lynch on CBC's The Early Edition to talk about the effect long hours can have on your mental and physical health.

Rick Cluff: Lots of workers like getting overtime to pay the bills, what's the harm in that?

Jennifer Newman: Working overtime hours can mean extending your work day up to 12 hours or more.

It brings in more money, but it's important to think about the health effects as well.

There's an increase in fatigue, which can lead to workplace injuries. Also, constantly working long hours increases the chances of being diagnosed with a chronic illness later in life.

This includes heart and lung disease, cancer, diabetes and arthritis.

These health effects are cumulative — a few long days won't do it. But, if long hours become a way of life, your health can suffer.

But some workers are pulling long hours to get time off, what about their health?

There are workplaces that offer compressed work weeks, where staff work 10 hours a day for four days and have a three-day week-end.

The benefits are more time with the family, or time to get your errands done on an added day off.

The downside is many work beyond the 10 hours. They find themselves working up to 12 hours to get everything done.

Then when the day they've earned comes along, they pack it with home-related tasks and don't get a break.

Some workers must work 12 hour days regularly, as part their job.  Many health and city workers fall into this category, are they at risk?

They can be. Working more than 12 hours regularly, or 60 hours per week can hurt worker physical and psychological health.

So, if you work 12 hour shifts, be sure you take your breaks.

Try not to take overtime on top of your shifts, and doing back-to-back shifts can damage your health.

Consider things carefully before taking a second job during your days off.

Also, problems arise if you try to "do-it-all" on the home front after long shifts. 

The trouble comes when workers don't get time to recover from work. You'll see increases in depression and anxiety in over-worked employees.

Workers must take time to recuperate.

But, some workers juggle two or three jobs, which can mean seven-day work weeks and 16 hour days, how can they cope?

Health risks come from the cumulative effects of working long hours for many years. But, there are times a worker's financial wellbeing may make their health less of a priority.

It's a trade-off.

It's ok to work a lot in the short term. But, be aware you are more accident prone after 12 hours of work. And this just gets worse with the number of hours worked in a row.

If you have to keep this kind of schedule, take your breaks during work when you get them.
Make sleep a priority.

Get black-out curtains and use a white noise machine to get some sleep between shifts. Eat healthy food — bring fruits, vegetables with you.

Avoid fast food, pop or skipping eating altogether. Keep hydrated and steer clear of caffeine.

In the short-term pulling long hours may bring financial benefits.

But, it's not a sustainable solution if you want to be healthy later in life.