Does Working Late Do More Harm Than Good?
Author Simon Sinek once said, ‘Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress; working hard for something we care about is called passion.’ Many people in the charity sector can relate to this concept. Your work is fulfilling and driven by your desire to help others. Each time you and your teammates complete a project, you’re impacting another human being, and that feels good. And this gratification drives your willingness to go the extra mile and work later than you should.
True, working beyond your standard hours now and then can increase your productivity and probably won’t cause any lasting adverse effects on your body. But routinely spending too much time working can affect your health, increase your stress levels and decrease the level of satisfaction you feel with your job and life in general.
In the UK, employees work an average of 10 hours of overtime each week or 469 hours annually. You’re probably thinking, I don’t spend an extra two hours at work every day, but remember that working through mealtimes and checking emails or voicemails at home can add up. And all this extra work can leave you struggling with work addiction and some of the harmful effects of too little downtime.
Think you might be spending a bit too much time working outside the office hours? Here are a few ways working late may be wreaking havoc in your life (and how to course-correct).
Lack of movement
Sitting in your chair and staring at your computer for eight hours a day is bad enough. Increase that time to 10 or 12 hours, and your risk of health problems like obesity, heart disease and even varicose veins increases significantly. Too much work can even take years off of your life. According to Dr James A. Levine, ‘sitting is the new smoking’ because it can cause health consequences that are just as serious.
The good news about sitting too much is that you can quickly beat the habit. Ask your boss for an adjustable desk so that you can stand and stretch a few times each hour. Go for a walk outside during breaks and lunches. When you’re walking about the building, skip the lift and climb the stairs for meetings or other tasks you need to complete on different floors. You should also strive to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to maintain your mental and physical health.
Lack of sleep
On average, you need about eight hours of quality sleep each night; chances are you’re not getting anything close to that. But you’re not alone. In fact, one in every three people in the UK suffers from poor sleep. Getting out of the office late can leave you with little time to get adequate rest, leaving you stressed, anxious and less likely to fall asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow. And consistently missing precious hours of sleep makes you more likely to feel groggy, short-tempered and lack the focus you need to complete projects.
If you’re not getting enough sleep each night, it’s probably time to have a chat with your boss to see how you can reduce your hours. You can explore a few of the NHS’s tips to get a good night’s rest. Create a bedtime routine and stick with it. Go to bed at the same time every night and keep your room cool. Turn off all lights, including any blue lights from your mobile or computer – light from these devices can stimulate your brain and make it difficult to fall asleep. If your mind is racing, consider practising meditation to ease the flow of thoughts. Or look for one of the best mindfulness apps to help you relax and settle down at the end of a stressful charity workday.
Lack of work-life balance
It’s critical to keep your work and home life separate. Too much work and not enough play can leave you tense and unfulfilled. You may start noticing the symptoms of burnout such as feeling physically and emotionally exhausted, detached from others around you, and feeling ineffective in both your professional and personal life. Other signs of poor balance include falling behind on your work, forgetting to eat right and feeling anxious or depressed.
There are a few ways to find a better work-life balance no matter your industry. First, acknowledge when you’re feeling off-balance. Tell your boss or co-workers how you’re feeling so that they can help you stay accountable for finding a better schedule and leaving work on time. Take your scheduled breaks and lunch during the workday. Take time to walk away from your desk and sit outside in the sunshine if possible. Many people lose holiday pay each year because they’re too afraid to leave work at the office to someone else. Don’t make this mistake. If you haven’t taken a holiday yet this year, speak to your boss and get one on the calendar straight away.
Sticking to your schedule
Stress in the charity sector is challenging. Your passion for helping others is an excellent characteristic to have, but it can also leave you feeling a strong sense of dedication that sometimes backfires and causes you to work too much. If your work is harming you in any of these ways, it might be time to take and break and regroup. Get yourself back on track to avoid burnout and restore your passion for charity work.