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Late nights and long work hours affect men's health

8 November 2013

Many Australian and New Zealand men are working late, and clocking up long hours on the job. Andrew Cate discusses what the implications are for your health.

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Men are working long hours
Finding a comfortable balance between work and everyday life is a challenge that many men face and a recent report research has found that Australian and New Zealand men work some of the longest hours in the developed world.

The OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) Better life index allows a comparison of well-being across 34 advanced and developing countries. Around 14% of Australian employees work very long hours, which is much higher than the OECD average of 9%. Men are more likely to spend longer hours in paid work, with 21% of men working very long hours compared with 6% of women.

The figures are similar in New Zealand, with 13% of employees working very long hours. 1in 5 New Zealand men worked very long hours compared with approximately 1 in 20 women.

Long hours were considered to be 50 or more hours spent at work each week.

How long work hours can affect your health
Working long hours can lead to:

  • reduced personal health
  • increased risk of injury
  • increased stress
  • negative effects on family life
  • less time available for leisure

Missing out on leisure activities such as exercise may have additional effects, because it denies men the opportunity to experience the physical and mental health benefits on offer.

Late nights could have their own set of complications, potentially impacting on diet, sleep, weight and fatigue.

Balancing work and life
It can be a challenge juggling your work and the commitments in the rest of your life. Work will have a strong impact on your social life, personal relationships, family life, finances and physical health.

Finding time outside work for other priorities can be difficult for men who work long hours, especially with new technology that keeps you "on call" 24 hours a day.

The following strategies may help to provide a good balance between your work and the demands of life

  • Work smarter - It may not be feasible to work less, but there may be ways to work more efficiently. Spend your travel time to work more productively, work from home one day a week, quit a committee or work group that offers little, or learn new time management skills. Seek out ways to make your work time more productive, which my give you a little extra time for the other priorities in your life.
  • Schedule what's important - There is a risk that men who work long hours can end up fatigued and disengaged from their partner. Identify what aspects of your social, personal and family life are most important, and work them into your schedule. A date night with your partner or game of tennis with a mate can also give you something to look forward to. Don't just make appointments for work.
  • Exercise efficiently - You may not have a lot of spare hours in the day, but the time you invest in exercise pays you back with higher energy levels, better sleep, stress relief and improved mental clarity. Interval training allows you to enjoy all the benefits of exercise, but in less time than a lengthy session in the gym.  Exercise with a friend, partner, or even your children to combine two priorities at once.
  • Make time for down time - Don't burn yourself out by always working long hours and late nights. Take your holidays, and use your weekends for activities that help you unwind. Find other hobbies, passions and interests outside of work so you are not defined simply by your employment.

References available on request



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