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What Happens When You Work Too Many Hours in a Day?

Here's the point of view of those who are burned out.
by The reportr team
Feb 12, 2022
Photo/s: Jerome Ascano

How many hours a day can you work without getting tired to the point that your productivity suffers? The hashtag #AkoSiLenLen was trending on Saturday after supporters of Presidential candidate Leni Robredo rebutted a video posted by Sen. Imee Marcos, sister of her chief rival.

In the video, which the senator posted with a disclaimer "not a political content", she and two others talked about a certain "Len-Len" who spreads herself too thin and listens to too many bosses. The post ended with a link to an article with the title, Anyone who claims to work 18 hours a day is either lying or stupid.

The same article title closed the video, directed by filmmaker Daryl Yap. In the article, contributing editor Geoffrey James cited a Stanford Study which found that longer work hours don't necessarily mean increased productivity. Past the 53rd hour of work in a week, according to the article, "you end up getting half as much done in twice the amount of time."

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The #AkoSiLenLen had over 30,000 posts on Saturday, as Robredo's supporters shared stories of working beyond 18 hours, from medical frontliners fighting COVID for the third year, breadwinners with side hustles and teachers bearing the brunt of online classes.

The video on Sen. Marcos' Facebook, posted on Feb. 10, had 32,000 shares, 10,000 comments and 109,000 reactions overthree days.

Work-life balance has become more elusive in the telework environment that was borne out of the pandemic. Like Kit on reportr has covered this dilemma extensively with expert tips to avoid burnout and real life stories of people who overwork more out of need than out of choice.

Frontliners have no choice but to keep working

It's their sworn duty to treat the sick and giving up would mean a collapse of the health system during the worst health crisis in a century. The same is true for essential workers in food, deliveries, drug stores and groceries. However, always pushing even if they themselves or thier loved ones get sick puts them at risk of "resilience fatigue".

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Days after the New Year 2022,  anesthesiologist Rodj Casa posted "sawang-sawa na ako mag-PPE" on Facebook and days later found himself isolating after getting exposed to a COVID-19 patient. Then the omicron wave started.

"Nalulungkot ako siyempre pero kailangan mo mag-cope up, 'di mo kailangan dibdibin 'yung mga bagay-bagay kasi nasasanay ka na nga lang e," Casa told reportr in January.

The same was true for logistics associate Mac, who self-isolated at home after catching COVID-19 for the second time in less than a year. He feared he is putting his family, including his 4-year-old nephew, at risk.

"Nung first time ko talagang pagod na pagod ako at ayoko na maulit," he told reportr in January. Six months earlier, he relied on oxygen tanks to breathe battling severe COVID-19. He is dealing with milder COVID-19 now that he's fully-vaccinated.

"Honestly ang kinakatakot ko, kung may nahawa ako e kasi ayoko na maging dahilan na ako pa 'yung nagkalat pa ng virus dito," Mac said.

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FULL STORY: 'Sawang-Sawa na Ako Mag-PPE': Tired of Being Resilient to the Pandemic? 

Your health suffers when you overwork

Working beyond seven to eight hours per weekday is linked to a 35% higher risk of stroke and 17% higher risk of dying from heart disease, according to a joint study by the World Health Organization and the International Labor Organization study released in May 2021. Some 745,000 of the 488 million workers who are overworked died due to stroke and coronary heart disease.

Jay, a journalist, college instructor and masteral student, confesses to taking sleeping pills when he needs six hours of sleep, the only rest he gets from overwork that has become common during the pandemic.

FULL STORY: How to Avoid Death From Overwork Because Long Hours Can Kill You 

You risk losing your identity to overwork

In high pressure jobs, the fine boundary between work and life is obliterated by a culture where the measure of worth or success is tied to one's career. 

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"Society has trained us to look at each career differently with various associations and assumptions attached to it, such as, one job being better than the other, another job is for the brainy ones only, and so on and so forth," life coach Myke Celis told reportr.

"So, too often we introduce ourselves when meeting another person for the first time using what we do for a living. This is because we believe that our value is attached to what we do and how much we earn in the process," he said.

John (not his real name) wore his employer's colors on Facebook like a badge of honor, working for one of the country's top telcos fresh out of college, until functioning as three workers for the salary of one made him question where he was.

Two months into what he thought was his dream job, he began hating it. It was too much work even for the greatest time manager in the world, he told reportr. As this article was about to be published, he said he was preparing to resign.

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"I feel like it’s something I’m supposed to love kasi I’ve always been very interested in it. But it's been taking up so much of my personal time that I started questionning if this what my life is supposed to be," he said.

FULL STORY: Dear Corporate Slave, Is Your Work All That You Are as a Person? 

You owe it to yourself to rest

Long-running quarantines due to COVID has birthed a "silent pandemic of mental stress", according to the World Health Organization and workers suffer as in countries like the Philippines, there's no mental health break provided by law. It's either filed as a vacation or sick leave.

Some companies have initiated employee assistance programs for stress and anxiety management, said psychologist Jojo Tandoc. "'Pag may awareness kasi ang bosses about these issues, they will realize, 'oo nga dapat ba tinatawagan ko mga staff ko during weekends o wee hours?'"

Continue reading below ↓

FULL STORY: Boss, I'm So Tired. Can I Take a Mental Health Break? 

When switching jobs is an option, here's how to do it

Like all major decisions,career shifts should not be based on a knee-jerk reaction of escaping one's current situation, said life coach Aurora Suarez.

"It's probably time for a career shift when you're not growing anymore where you are, where you're working is not aligned with your values and your strengths, how you want to serve the world or serves the future you want to build," she said.

For those who are seriously considering a career shift, Suarez suggests asking oneself first: "What are you willing to do or sacrifice for the career you want?"

"Basically, every job will have its own challenges," she said. "This is also a question to open your eyes to the realities of work."

"While your career can provide meaning and purpose, it is only one aspect of your life. Don't forget to give importance as well to your relationships, community, creativity, fun, spirituality, health, and love," she said.

Continue reading below ↓

FULL STORY: The Great Resignation: Time to Switch Careers During the Pandemic? 

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