Working more than 55 hours per week dramatically increases a person’s risk of a stroke, according to research published today.
The data, published by medical journal The Lancet, found those who work 55 hours or more every week are 33% more likely to have a stroke than people who work a standard 38-hour week.
Lead author Mika Kivimaki told The Australian even working just an extra 10 hours a week increased the likelihood of a stroke by 10%.
Meanwhile, those who work an extra 16 hours a week increased their chance of a stroke by 27%.
The survey crunched data from Australia as well as Europe and the United States, finding individuals who have longer working weeks are more stressed and often make poorer choices when it comes to eating healthily.
Dr Simone Ryan, chief executive of One Life Live It, told SmartCompany working up to 50 or 55 hours per week is similar to doing shift work, finishing a transatlantic flight or even pulling an “all-nighter” at university.
“What we do know, apart from the obvious fatigue, is that working these sorts of hours contributes to stomach upsets… and an increase in injuries and accidents in the workplace because you’re not switched on,” Ryan says.
“You can then flick into insomnia, so you don’t sleep well and fall into poor sleeping habits.”
Ryan says she no longer talks about work-life balance, instead preferring the term “life balance” because for entrepreneurs and business owners, their personal and working lives are so entangled.
Here are Ryan’s top four tips for achieving a better life balance:
1. Eat well
“Nutrition is absolutely vital,” Ryan says.
“We’ve got lots and lots of information about nutrition now and even if you’re working long hours you need to focus on high-nutrient food rather than high-energy food. So eat fruits and vegetables, salads, nuts, seeds, and the good fats that give us the same hit but don’t give us the calories.”
2. Get the amount of sleep your body needs
Ryan says it may be common sense, but business owners need to make sleep a priority.
“A lot of evidence says we should have eight hours of sleep,” she says.
“My view is a little different – we need to have sleep that is enough for us. I don’t remember the last time I slept eight hours a night. I feel like I can operate on six and-a-half, so that’s another hour or so for my social life or to spend time with my son.”
3. Spread out the workload
Ryan says she works about 60 hours a week but still manages to spend time with family and cook healthy meals.
The trick, she says, is for chief executives and entrepreneurs to spread out their workload and leverage modern-day technology.
“If it’s your business or you’re at a senior management level you can work effectively with a really good life balance across seven days,” Ryan says.
“No one – especially CEOs – turns their phone off by a Friday afternoon. You can spread out work across seven days so that it doesn’t have to be Monday to Friday for 12 hours a day.”
4. Learn to delegate
“Don’t think as an entrepreneur or a CEO of a small business you can do it on your own,” Ryan says.
“You have a particular skillset and generally CEOs and entrepreneur-types need to focus on their leadership. I think it’s important to spend some of your money investing in the right people to get to where you need to go without burning out.”