How to stay healthy while working long hours

20 July 2022

How TO StAY Healthy While Working Long Hours

Working long hours can be a reality for all of us at points in our busy lives, trying to achieve the perfect work-life balance.  In this guide, we help you to ensure that if you have to work long hours, then you stay healthy and productive.

Firstly, the negative effects of working long hours. Working long hours often has huge consequences on the mind and body, with poor productivity and decreased performance being the most common obvious side effects. Other side effects include:

  • Daytime fatigue – simply being up longer will lead to less sleep and more fatigue, ironically making you less productive and more irritable!
  • Tendency to consume more alcohol – too much work or stress has proven to increase people’s dependence on alcohol, which can lead to a huge raft of issues, including not being able to work and in some cases premature death.
  • Feeling blue – you could end up adopting the “I just live for the weekend” mentality which can negatively affect your mental health, often causing depression or anxiety.
  • Overworked heart – when you work overtime, so does your heart. Stress can release cortisol, which is hormone that is hard on your heart.  This in turn can significantly increase your chances of developing coronary diseases, having strokes, developing type 2 diabetes, or even cancer.
  • Sore back and neck through bad posture – it takes a lot of work to maintain great posture, and the longer we work, the more likely we are to get away from that perfect position.
  • Relationship problems – it’s not easy when a loved one is too busy to give you time!

One of the worst short-term consequences of working long hours without an end in view is mental/and or physical breakdowns, which can pave the way for serious medical problems such as heart attacks with very little or no warning.


So how do we stay healthy while working long hours?

It isn’t unusual, especially as a key worker, manager or company director to have a 60-hour workweek, but many people find that this quickly becomes normal, rather than being a one off occurrence. Check out these tips to find a way to stay healthy while working long hours:


Get Regular Exercise

Aim to exercise every day, and make sure it happens at least twice per week.  Exercising a little every day would be great but start off by focusing on the day in hand.  The best idea to give exercise the best chance of happening is to make it a part of your routine, so when you wake up in the morning you are already prepared.  If you are unable to get to a gym or commit much time to exercise, you could set yourself a target to walk away from the house for 10 minutes, then return – this would give you 20 minutes exercise per day, and over 2 hours each week.


Get Social

Friends and relationships are a secret survival technique. Friends will give you motivation, help you achieve goals by keeping you accountable and giving encouragement.  They also make you happier, and happy people are less likely to suffer from mental illness and other health debilitating illnesses.  Making time in the day to contact loved ones, in person for via social media is a cost-free method to really keep you sane, as well as being one of the easiest tips to implement! Go on a date or join a forum!


Keep Hydrated

Water is your friend.  As most of our body is made up of water, it’s very important to make sure we always stay hydrated.  It’s not just about your body though – your brain can only function properly when properly hydrated, which means the same for your mind.  If your attention is flagging, it is often a sign that you need water, so take the cue and stop for a water break.  If you aren’t a fan of drinking water, then you can add lemon or cucumber to give it some taste, without negating the benefits.  Beware of having too much caffeine in other drinks, as this will further dehydrate you, even if it does feel like it is giving you some great short-term effects!  If you don’t drink water already, start by having a small glass of water before you have your usual drink – you’ll soon get used to it, and in time water may become your go to beverage!


Have a healthy workspace setup

Working long hours isn’t all bad, it may be exactly what you need to do to survive.  If you are going to work long hours, then you need to ensure that your workspace is a healthy one.  If you work at a desk, then you can invest in a standing desk and other ergonomic accessories such as monitor arms, laptop stands and ergonomic chairs.  These things will reduce fatigue, and strain on your bodies making you body and mind healthier.


Get enough sleep!

This is hugely underestimated.  Don’t worry about the age-old 8-hour sleep mantra, as the human body really doesn’t need this long.  On the same note, it isn’t heroic to try to replicate Margaret Thatcher’s fabled 4-hour nights!  8 hours won’t have a detrimental effect, but why not aim for 6 or 7?  This way, you’ll have plenty of enough sleep for your body to recover from the day before and be refreshed for another day at work!  Routine is the key to getting a good night’s sleep – and the best way to start a sleep routine is to ensure that you get up at the same time every morning.  Once you are into this routine, then try to go to bed at the same time each night!  As creature of habit, we naturally love a good routine, which therefore has a positive mental effect on us.


Make sure your diet is balanced

The kitchen is where you make one of the hugest decisions about your health.  To ensure you are getting the right spread of nutrients, you can plan your meals for the next day/next week.  There are many websites and apps that will assist you in making the right choices and monitoring what you consume – our favourite is MyFitnessPal.  On this platform, you can also connect with likeminded people and friends to keep you motivated to eat properly!  If you are at a complete loss to know what to do, just keep your carbohydrate intake to a minimum and have fruit, vegetables or high protein foods as your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.


Regular Breaks

Focus is essential in almost every job, whether you are an office worker, technician, or bus driver.  Taking regular breaks may seem counter-intuitive, but they really are the opposite.  A regular break will allow you to stretch, invigorate your senses and allow you to get more clarity of focus when back on the job.  Focusing on anything for more than an hour or two will result in a loss of concentration, so make sure you plan breaks in you day before you even start.  Some ideas to encourage this, could be to set a time to meet a friend at the water cooler, take a brisk walk after you’ve written a certain amount of content, sit down for a few minutes after packing a certain number of boxes, or stop once you have driven for an hour.


All these tips will have some positive impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.  Start by implementing even just one in your life from today!