Ergonomics and Wellness – Part 5 – Avoid overtime

Ergonomic risk factors arise when work tasks do not fit or exceed the capabilities of the worker.  I have written about how to change the physical work environment and tasks, but what can you do to increase your capabilities as a worker?  You should be able to work an 8-hour day without being extremely fatigued and without too much discomfort.  If this does not sound like your workday, consider making some changes:

5.  Overtime –

Americans are spending an average of nearly 4.5 hours each week doing additional work from home on top of a 9.5 hour average workday as reported by the 2008 Sleep in America poll by the National Sleep Foundation. And a study published in 2005 by the Center for Health Policy & Research at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that “working in jobs with overtime schedules was associated with a 61% higher injury hazard rate compared to jobs without overtime.”  It’s important as a worker to realize when you’re working too much and to cut down your hours to avoid physical injuries, mental stress, and loss of leisure time.  I can’t think of anyone I have worked with that didn’t notice the direct result between increased working hours and increased pain and discomfort.  For some people, injuries improved with the one simple recommendation that they cut down the hours they were working.  Our bodies were only made to handle so much work before tissues and bodily processes start to break down.  Ergonomic risk factors such as repetition, overuse, static postures, and awkward postures all become more pronounced with overtime which can accelerate the process to becoming injured.  Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, a 40-hour week is mandated.  This should be adhered to not only for your health, but for your productivity at work.   Alex Kerin, Ph.D., author of the Circadian report, Overtime in Extended Hours Operations: Benefits, Costs, Risks and Liabilities cites one study that states a 10% increase in overtime on average results in a 2.4% decrease in productivity; and that in white collar jobs, some studies have shown that performance can decrease by as much as 25% when workers put in 60 or more hours per week for prolonged periods of time.  So to be more productive, you don’t work overtime – I think we can all work with that!


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