Too Much Work Causes Heart Attacks: It's Time to Book that Summer Vacation

Last Updated May 13, 2010 12:36 PM EDT

Working lots of overtime is bad for you, says a new study published in the European Heart Journal. And after all of the layoffs in recent years, lots of folks who still have jobs have been working overtime, skipping vacations, and bringing even more work home just to keep up with the flow and avoid the ax.

The study found that British civil servants who worked three to four hours of overtime a day ran a 60 percent higher risk of developing heart disease -- even after accounting for factors such as smoking. Meanwhile, a 2009 Expedia survey (it's called the Vacation Deprivation Survey, which should give you a hint about its results) found that 34 percent of Americans didn't use all of their vacation days, even though Americans get fewer vacation days every year than workers in other countries. Furthermore, the number of people taking at least a two-week vacation fell from 14 percent in 2009 to 10 percent in 2009.

The takeaway? It's time to bring back the break, folks. Companies are getting on board, says John Challenger, of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, a Chicago-based outplacement firm. "As people become more secure about their jobs, with companies no longer in simple survival mode, I do think we will see more people taking those vacations again, and utilizing the time they've got to refresh themselves." Here's how:

  • Take a nice long vacation. At least a full week -- and don't take your company cell phone. Using up all of your vacation days on three-day weekends doesn't have the same head-clearing power as serious time away does.
  • Staycations don't count. Taking a couple of days to lounge at home, clean closets, and go to a nice in town restaurant is nice, but it's not the same as getting away. Travel deals abound this summer, grab one. Even if a hotel is still too expensive for your budget, you can afford an inexpensive road trip to a camp site.
  • Life trumps work. If you are stuck with a lot of regular overtime, make it fit your life instead of the other way around. Take a break in between to have dinner with the family, go to the gym, or tuck in the kids. Then pull out the work for another short session.
  • Employers, take note. Refreshed employees are happier, more productive, and more creative. So encourage them to take their days off by stressing the use-it-or-lose it nature of their benefit. If you want them to take time over the summer instead of clumping all of their days off in the last quarter, you can even encourage it by adding an extra day of paid leave (an unpaid furlough is not a vacation), or simply reminding folks of how much time they have.
  • Cut the extreme overtime. Hey, boss -- if your employees are regularly working three or four hours of overtime a night it's time to... yes... hire more people! Good for the economy, good for your company, and good for Charlie in accounting's heart, too.
Photo by badruddeen on Flickr.
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