According to the OECD, the U.S. ranks 28th of 38 countries for work/life balance, with more than 11% of people working more than 50 hours a week.
For entrepreneurs and small business owners it’s even worse. Nearly 80% feel like they're working too much, a study by the Alternative Board found. Almost 30% spend at least 50 hours a week on the job, and 19% push themselves past 60 hours.
The problem with working too much is that you can get away with it for a while, which leads you to believe you're immune from its harmful effects. But eventually, health problems catch up with you.
Nearly half of working adults say their job affects their overall health, according to a study by NPR and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 70% of those who are stressed experience physical symptoms, which range from eye strain and neck and back problems to serious conditions like strokes and respiratory problems.
A University College London study found white-collar workers who worked three or more hours longer than required had a 60% higher risk of heart problems than those who didn't work overtime.
The irony is, risking your health by pushing long past the point of fatigue doesn't help your business. Working more than 50 or 55 hours a week causes performance to dramatically decline. It also affects productivity. A Stanford study found that someone who puts in 70 hours a week produces no more than someone else working 40 hours.
Medical Expenses and Workers' Compensation
In addition to causing pain and suffering, stress-related health issues take time away from work.
They can also hit you in the pocketbook. Healthcare expenditures are nearly 50% higher for workers who report high levels of stress—a serious problem for small business owners and entrepreneurs, who already pay more than others for insurance.
Overwork and stress also lead to higher expenses from on-the-job injuries. A study by the Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health examined the workers’ compensation claims of nearly 17,000 employees at 314 organizations across industries and found that stress at work increases the chances of worker injuries and influences claims costs. The more claims you have, the more likely it is that your workers' comp premiums will go up.
Achieving a Better Balance
In our workaholic culture, it can be hard to take a step back. Instead, think of it as taking a step forward—a step towards better health, better work quality, and a more fulfilling life. Here are a few suggestions:
- Make time off official by blocking out hours on your calendar for regular exercise, family time, walks or meditation, just as you would do for a meeting with an important client. (The important client is you.) Encourage your employees to do the same.
- If your head is drooping, take a nap or a brisk walk outdoors instead of grabbing yet another cup of coffee.
- Pause after completing each task. Look out the window and be in the present moment, finding stillness before you rush off to the next item on your to-do list.
- Don't wait for the weekend to have fun. Do an enjoyable little something every day. Make your own list of funny sites and jokes to revisit when you feel your blood pressure rising.
- Get away from the computer and put your smartphone aside for at least an hour a day. Living without constant interruptions reduces stress and allows for the kind of sustained thinking and creativity that lead to business success.
Improving your work/life balance should be a top business goal. With your health, productivity, success, and personal relationships all at stake, there's no better investment of your time and energy.
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