honoluluadvertiser.com

Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 13, 2006

Workers pay high price for constant overtime

By STEVE BIEN-AIME
The (Wilmington, Del.) News Journal

This society seems driven to have the most of anything cars, homes, clothes, shoes, etc. And it has to be the biggest and the best; no discount brands wanted.

People want to impress family, friends and co-workers, and show they have great taste.

Unfortunately, that's an expensive habit and most people don't make the salaries of Fortune 500 chief executives. That means getting creative by using credit cards or taking out home equity loans, for example.

Others feel it's more responsible to work more for things they want. The logic is sound. Buy it outright, incur no debt.

But, too often, people forget these items come with a price greater than what's listed on the sticker. All those overtime hours kept you from doing anything else. You missed a Holy Communion, your child's recital, spending time with your spouse or a friend's birthday party. It's nearly impossible to have it all; something's got to be sacrificed.

This takes an emotional toll on people, said Edward Sobel, vice chairman of family and community medicine at Christiana Care in Delaware. "They're making money, but they're unhappy," he said.

Life at home suffers because you're never there. Your routine is disrupted because you don't have the energy to do anything but work. Telling these people to work less sounds easy, but Sobel said they can be conflicted.

"For some people, it's hard to turn away the lucrative extra income," he said.

Many studies have been done on the physical effects of working overtime, including whether it leads to illnesses. It's hard to say definitively, according to a 2004 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, which analyzed numerous studies on the subject. Many of those studies found people who work a lot of overtime have poorer general health than those who don't. Other studies didn't support that.

However, if your job stresses you out, and you spend more time there, that can't be good for you. Increased stress has been linked to a variety of illnesses and raises your risk for heart attack. That big-screen television won't get much use if you're in the hospital.

Overtime is also linked to on-the-job injuries, according to a study published last year in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine. It found that people who routinely work overtime had a 61 percent higher risk for a work injury than those who do not.

Co-author of the study Allard E. Dembe said one explanation for the difference is that workers on overtime are more likely to become fatigued and make mistakes.

"It's up to the employer to try to create as many safety measures as possible," said Dembe, chairman of the Division of Health Services Management and Policy at Ohio State University.

The overtime may not affect your home life, your social life or your health. And the luxury items you purchase as a result may bring you much pleasure. But you could find your love of your profession is fading. That could be a sign of burnout.