Is your work schedule hurting your health?

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This year, the Mayo Clinic launched a new effort to track the health of the American population. The hospital conducted a “National Health Check-Up” that aimed to get a snapshot of the general well-being of the country. The survey uncovered results both unsurprising and unexpected. For instance, over 70 percent of those surveyed said they want to eat healthier and get more exercise this year. When asked what was stopping them from achieving those goals, the No. 1 response was a conflicting work schedule. It seems that Americans feel that their work schedules actually prohibit them from getting healthier. Other responses to the question included lack of sleep, too much time spent looking after family members and the cost of healthy food.

The problem becomes clearer when you take into account the amount of time Americans spend on vacation each year. According to Forbes, workers in other highly developed countries get much more off-time than their American counterparts. In fact, America is the only rich nation that doesn’t require companies to provide paid vacation days. Citizens of the EU get 20 paid vacation days per year, reported Forbes. Canadians and the Japanese get 10 paid vacation days a year. This combination of tough schedules and little vacation time could make for an unhealthy workforce.

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Consequences of being too busy for your health
Health and safety should be should be a top concern for everyone when it comes to work – but what happens when the work itself gets in the way of healthy living? No amount of safety procedures can cut down a busy schedule or offer more vacation time. The American economy is a competitive one, and sometimes taking a break can give the competition time to catch up. So how does the average worker balance a busy work schedule and healthy lifestyle? First, take a look at the consequences.

A major result of being too busy is a lack of good sleep. Falling asleep on the sofa in front of the TV is not an example of good sleep. Harvard Medical School reported that light from laptops and other electronics can have seriously detrimental effects on a person’s health. What many people lack is the time to have a nightly ritual of getting ready for bed, powering off the electronics and relaxing before drifting off. The result is tired, groggy mornings. A sleepless night leads to an unproductive day – or worse. Those who experience sleep deprivation are more likely to have an accident at work.

According to Harvard Medical School, sleep deprivation can dampen logical thought and could lead to otherwise preventable accidents. Some of the studies the school cited pointed to sleep deprivation being a significant factor in the nuclear accidents of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. Accidents at your place of work may not be so extreme, but they could be just as fatal.

In addition to sleep deprivation, people too busy to take care of their health tend to eat more junk food and avoid seeing the doctor. Combined, these factors further increase the likelihood of workplace accidents, including slip-and-fall incidents, one of the top causes of injuries in the U.S.

Sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of an accident.Sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of an accident at work.

An increased focus on health
Slowing down and taking an assessment of your health is a great way to prevent accidents at the workplace. Fatigue and sleep deprivation should be treated as serious impediments to safety. Equipment such as hard hats, slip-resistant shoes and protective eyewear are great tools for a safer work environment, but they only work when the wearer is functioning properly.

As 2016 continues, workers and their employers should try to be more cognizant of the strain of a heavy workload. Long hours and fatiguing work can be just as dangerous as intoxication. With that in mind, crews should support each other and learn when it’s time to take a break.

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