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How much overtime is too much?

Consider these 10 reasons to scale it back the next time you're tempted to sign on for that all-nighter.

1. It affects your overall performance

Businessman analyzing information of his computer screen, he is working overtime
Dragon Images / Shutterstock

Though putting in as many hours as possible at work may feel like going above and beyond, it won't keep you in the spotlight for long.

Human beings simply weren't designed to consistently toil away nonstop. As the physical and mental toll starts to add up, you'll find your productivity declining.

And unfortunately, then you'll feel the need to work even more overtime — in order to get everything done that a properly rested employee could pull off in a regular work week.

2. You're likely to make mistakes

Fatigue man in shirt rubbing face while watching computer totally exhausted working late at night.
Altitude Visual / Shutterstock

You know those stupid mistakes you sometimes notice when you're looking over your work the next day? Those can occur in larger numbers after you pass the 10-hour mark on your job.

As exhaustion starts to creep in and your focus begins to drain, you're more likely to churn out substandard work that you'll only have to go back and redo later.

By focusing hard on your tasks during a given workday, reaching a good stopping point and resuming only after you've had proper rest, you'll work more efficiently — and accurately.

3. You need time to recharge

Portrait of sleepy Asian man yawning while working overtime with laptop and documentation alone in dark office late at night
Pressmaster / Shutterstock

Unlike the computers many of us spend our working hours typing away on, our minds and bodies seriously need an opportunity to recharge.

You're far more likely to get more work done at a faster pace when you show up to the office after seven or eight hours of sleep rather than rolling in after an exhausting night of burning the midnight oil.

Technology doesn't have to sleep — for example, today's automated investing services can do a great job managing your portfolio 'round the clock. But you're a human being. You need the rest!

4. It's harder to make a good impression

Businessman asleep at office desk with finance sheet calculator and coffee.(concept for overworked) / Shutterstock

There's nothing worse than having to hit an important meeting or presentation when you're absolutely exhausted.

Not only are you more likely to be unfocused and make simple mistakes, but your exhaustion also will probably be far more apparent than you think.

Rather than walk in red-eyed and disheveled, it's always better to be rested so you can make a polished, professional appearance when it counts most — so you can be on your way to a bigger job with a bigger paycheck.

5. It can take a toll on your health

Young businessman drinking from stress
Elnur / Shutterstock

Who cares if you're able to retire early or with a million bucks in the bank if you won't be around long enough to enjoy it? One study found that people who work over 10 hours a day increase their risk of heart problems by 60%.

And, putting in more than 40 hours a week has been linked to increases in alcohol and tobacco use, unhealthy weight gain and depression.

No matter how much you love your job, it's not worth sacrificing your well-being for.

6. Your relationship can suffer

people, relationship difficulties and family concept - unhappy couple having conflict in bed at home
Syda Productions / Shutterstock

Working longer hours at the expense of your family can lead to serious issues that are hard to fix.

Researchers at Cornell University found that 10% of workers clocking in for more than 50 hours a week reported severe problems at home. That jumped to 30% for employees working more than 60 hours.

As working hours increase, so do divorce rates. Never forget that relationships take work, too. Don't be putting in so much time at the office or your job site that you can't devote enough time to what really counts.

7. You can get hurt

Workers taking care about their colleague lying on the floor in a warehouse
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock

Lack of focus and exhaustion aren't the only risks when you work late hours. As your mental capacity starts to drain, you're more likely to sustain an injury that could land you in the hospital.

One study found that jobs with overtime schedules have a 61% higher rate of injuries than positions with more limited hours.

Whether you work with hazardous machinery or simply find yourself driving home exhausted, an accident could lay you up for weeks. And if that happens, were all the extra hours at the job worth it?

8. It can affect your hormone levels

asian man in bed suffering insomnia and sleep disorder thinking about his problem at night
PrinceOfLove / Shutterstock

Though this may sound a bit random, never underestimate the importance of hormonal balance. Your hormones can be thrown out of whack by stress, which is likely to be a major issue if you're working around the clock.

Stress-related Hormonal imbalance can affect all manner of bodily functions, including your sleep patterns and your appetite.

It can further cause blood pressure issues, affect your immune system, and result in moodiness and insomnia.

9. There's a risk of musculoskeletal disorders

Millennial woman sitting in kitchen at table touch massage neck.
fizkes / Shutterstock

Many of us already spend a good part of the workday sitting, or in an awkward posture. None of that is good for you — and it's even worse when you work overtime.

Without the chance to unwind and recover, you're increasing your odds of developing disorders that can cause severe pain in your muscles, joints, nerves and so on.

One study found nurses were at increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders if they didn't take at least 10 hours off between shifts. The brain may say that you can endure through marathon shifts, but the body may say something entirely different.

10. You can harm your brain

Very hard day at work. Man with a headache hold his head by his hands sitting at a table in his office
Roman Samborskyi / Shutterstock

Working longer hours can have a damaging effect on brain health.

A report published by the American Journal of Epidemiology said workers who put in over 55 hours a week experienced short-term memory problems and scored lower on vocabulary tests.

When you push your mind harder over the course of extra-long workdays, you're not doing it any favors in the long run. So if you're reading this and are in your 11th hour on the job, do the right thing for your mind and body — and call it a day.


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About the Author

Doug Whiteman

Doug Whiteman

Former Editor-in-Chief

Doug Whiteman was formerly the editor-in-chief of MoneyWise. He has been quoted by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and and has been interviewed on Fox Business, CBS Radio and the syndicated TV show "First Business."

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