Overworked America: Work, work as fast as you can

America: Built on the back of sleepless workers

Life was on the up-and-up at a time when fathers walked through the door promptly at 5 p.m. after a hard day's work, hugging the little ones as they ran to him in excitement. The subtle smell of dinner lingered from the dinning room, and he knew the wife had his favorite meal prepared and waiting, right on time.

Nearly 50 years ago, that was the American dream. Families had time together and things moved at a slower pace. 

Fast forward to 2013, parents walk through the door at 10 p.m., missing soccer games and family meals because their jobs require 12 hours of effort to succeed.

Americans are working longer hours than at any other time in recorded history and working more than anyone else in the world, according to ABC News.

A 'normal' work routine is anything but normal in today's world. Forty-hour weeks have diminished, leaving sleepless America daydreaming of better times.

Beth Jasper, of Stonelick Township near Cincinnati, died nearly a year ago after falling asleep at the wheel and crashing her SUV. Her family is now suing the hospital where she was employed as a nurse, claiming that stress and extra hours of work contributed to her death. Part of the lawsuit paperwork states that as a result of a shortage of nurses, they were regularly unable to take lunch breaks and had to stay for longer hours.

Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America was found dead in his apartment after an alleged three-day binge of ‘Misery Poker.’

‘Misery Poker’ is a form of working ridiculous hours in order to 'outwork' your competition. One-upping a co-worker is the newest game in corporate America and they play it to the death.

In Japan, ‘Karoshi’ meaning ‘death by overwork’ can be traced back to the 70s. It was legally recognized as a cause of death in the 80s.

One instance in 2002, at the age of 30, a Japanese Toyota factory worker, Kenichi Uchino collapsed at 4 a.m. after working more than 80 hours of overtime for more than six months, according to The Economist.

Figures suggest that Japanese workers put in about 1,780 hours per year, which is slightly less than Americans who work an average of 1,800 hours a year, reads a report from The Economist. The statistics seem to be somewhat misleading, not factoring in economic factors, overtime or undocumented time.

Who are the overworked?

It’s not just doctors, single mothers and Wall Street investment bankers that are experiencing overworked lifestyles – it’s all of America.

Ever wonder who keeps a watchful eye on us while we rest peacefully and safe in our beds every night?

Our military members.

Every hour of every day, our U.S. military is watching over us from near and far. Jordan Pleasants, 22, currently stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army said that he works an average of 60 hours, “on a good week.”

“If I’m out in the field or working 24 hour shifts, I’m working more towards three to five days straight,” Pleasants said. “If not, it is 85+ hours a week.

WCPO received feedback on our Facebook page from dozens of hard-working Americans throughout the Tri-State who say they are overworked.

Software Engineers working 70 hours a week, full-time college students working to pay tuition, grocery store and factory workers, utility workers, teachers, coaches and many more commented saying they are pushing 50 hours or more a week.

American workers put in more time, to make less money in some cases. We can see the American dream in the horizon, but is it obtainable?

Just a year ago, Business Insider reported that productivity in the work place has increased by 60 percent in the last 20 years.

But there are less full-time jobs -- so how is this happening?

Dee Allen said on our Facebook page that her husband just worked 22 hours straight, but that's not normal for him and that his employer is "just behind."

Is this trend purely competition or are the employed now expected to make up for those positions that were cut when the economy tanked?

The typical American middle-income family put in an average of 11 more hours per week in 2006 than it did in 1979, according to American Progress. That number has increased since. 

Health Issues

When work pressures exceed our capabilities, we swig back a few cups of coffee and power through the day. But how does it affect us?

Stress, exhaustion and obesity are among the biggest outcomes of being overworked. 

A stressed person can put on more "toxic" fat than "normal" fat, according to a study conducted by Dr. Denise Cummins in Psychology Today.

Sustained chronic stress leads to the hormone cortisol to elevate. Cortisol is the "stress hormone" that has been linked to depression, according to Dr. Laura Martin. When chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine and cortisol are working in balanced levels, they regulate our sleep, moods and emotions. This imbalance can cause distress to our minds and bodies.

Everyone is in a rush to complete their work at super-sonic speeds. But our bodies need time and fuel to replenish energy that has been lost. Lack of sleep can cause a lapse in performance, not an improvement.

Attention deficit, lack of concentration and coordination and increased errors are a few of the effects of sleep depravation, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

Households with overworked parents affect more than the body -- it touches the whole family. 

In 1960, only 20 percent of mothers were employed, according to the Center for American Progress. 

"Because the most common family was comprised of a male breadwinner and stay-at-home mother, employers were able to shape jobs around that ideal, with the expectation that the breadwinner was available for work anytime, anywhere, for as long as his employer needed him," read the report from CAP.

But that workplace model is long gone and work-family conflicts have become a more prevalent problem due to long work hours.

Cynthea Singer, a retail store manager overseeing two locations, said that she works 50 to 60 hours a week. “I’m a single mom and have missed out on way too much over the years,” she said.


How many of you feel overworked? How many of you are missing out on time with your family because of your job? Let us know by commenting below or on our Facebook page.

To read about labor laws and conditions, visit the Department of Labor's website.


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