In Japan it’s called karoshi, and it means death from overwork.
Work can kill me?!
Yes, it can – and we’re not joking. Not normal work, not even hard work, but endless demanding work with no boundaries can be the death of you.
So, what is karoshi? Back in the 1970s it was first defined as circulatory disease brought on by stress, and the word karoshi means ‘overwork death’. While karoshi applies to a Japanese work ethic and environment, some of the factors may be found in your office setting!
Don’t laws protect me in the workplace?
Sure, over the last decades many labour laws have been passed to protect workers – think about:
- Workplace safety standards and injury compensation
- Improved maternity benefits
- Protected hours
- Grievance procedures
Those are just a few of many laws passed to protect workers. But, while we were fixing the problems, our technology was changing too.
The result? While the law states you shouldn’t work for longer than, say, 45 hours per week, you also have a smartphone and email!
These mean you can be reached at any time of night, over the weekend or on holiday. Tell the truth: haven’t you spent at least one weekend this month hammering out a proposal, budget or a presentation? Now, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t do them, but it’s wise to pay attention to the balance in your life.
What are the danger signs?
The problem with burn-out is that it doesn’t always email you a warning! So, here are some of the signs you should watch out for:
- Are you battling to get yourself to work or to get started once you arrive?
- Have you become cynical at work – or impatient with co-workers, customers or clients?
- Do you lack the energy to be consistently productive?
- Do you lack satisfaction from your achievements?
- Are you using drugs, food or alcohol to feel better or to numb yourself?
- Have your sleep habits or appetite changed?
- Are you battling with unexplained headaches, backaches or other physical complaints?
What can I do?
Here are some things you can do to maintain a healthy balance:
- Take stock of where you’re at: pay attention to how much you do at work and how much you allow to overflow into your home-life.
- If there are ways you can manage your time better at the office, put them into place. For some practical tips, see Ways To Manage Stress
- Switch all those devices off for a while!
So, make the most of your weekends, take time out when you need to, and know your rights when it comes to overtime. Your health is in your hands!