Why Your 40-Hour Work Week is Doing You Damage


Are you working too hard?

Working too much is bad for your health? We know. There needs to be more balance in your work week? We know that too. But try as you might to put that knowledge into action, the reality is, when a tight deadline comes around or a last-minute task gets dumped on your desk, you’re just going to roll up your sleeves and get it done right?

A new study carried out by researchers at Australian National University may have you drawing a more defined line, and stop from clocking your standard overtime sessions ASAP. After examining 8,000 participants in the workforce the study found when women spent over 34 hours at work per week and men 47 hours per week, they had an increased chance of experiencing mental illness and symptoms of distress. And for us, these stats are not surprising, when extra time at work often means less time for winding down with friends and family, healthy meal preparation, better quality sleep and necessary exercise.

It was also uncovered that women had a lower threshold when it came to paid work because those included in the survey were taking on more unpaid caring and household duties compared to that of their male counterparts.

“We need to encourage people to look after their mental health, but mostly we need to encourage managers and workplaces to see this as something they want to mitigate,” Professor Lyndall Strazdins, one of the authors of the study, urges. This report, combined with data from Australian Bureau of Statistics confirming one in four Australians now work more than the standard prescribed hours of 38 hours a week, according to the Fair Work Commission, confirms the danger of working longer hours. But the question remains, how do we get the work done, while still maintaining quality of life?

And while revolutionising your entire company’s work hours may not be a practical step (just yet), small milestones like convincing your manager to introduce a self-improvement day or mental health day to annual leave options as well as examining your own work habits, finally dispelling the myth that multi-tasking is the measuring stick for efficiency, could work wonders for improving your mental and physical well-being during work hours. It’s a start, anyway.


Steph Reuss

This is such an important and wide-reaching issue. Other research shows that a lack of work life balance is the #1 cause of anxiety and depression in women between 30 and 45, and #2 for men. With 25 hours the optimal productivity, there has to be a better way… flexible work is the way forward and the best companies are figuring it out.


Flexible work is more than working from home, it’s working where and when work is needed and having the ability to step in and be immersed and engaged in something then stepping back and refuelling energy levels and focusing on life outside of work. Counting hours of effort rather than the result is an outdated notion and we need to embrace contributions and outcomes not clocks.


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