Overtime Culture – Is Making A Living Killing Us?

The Japanese have a word for it. Karoshi. Karoshi means death caused by overwork or job-related exhaustion. This is manifested in heart attacks or strokes brought on by exhaustion and near starvation diets. In many cases, these overworked people simply snap and take their own lives. 

In most countries, there are laws about how many hours a person can work in a week or month. But, since many employees are working unpaid, there are no records to help them.

Why do we do it?

The working economy is not as healthy as people might think. Many young people believe they have to work longer and harder than seasoned employees. They know there are many qualified people who are looking for work. If they have to put in extra hours to keep a job that may grow into a good career choice, so be it. 

With the culture forcing people to have to keep up, many companies use that as a reason to impose more work hours or lower paychecks. 

Some companies are also struggling to keep their business afloat or need to cut the hours their employees could work and still be considered full-time or to make sure they did not have 50 or more employees. The businesses still have to be productive, so employees were required to do the work of more people working more hours and get paid less.  

Ways to stop the madness

In Japan, some companies have gone to the habit of cutting the power in the buildings at a certain hour. This works well for companies that only work one shift schedule.

Technology is helping employees work smarter and there are free time card programs that schedule a workers hours and add in their law required breaks.

Another way to do it is also diversifying your income. That helps reduce stress and the pressure of keeping up with your colleagues, or chasing the next promotion. If you are making plans for retirement, you might also find some financial advisors to help you with investment options that will provide an additional income source for you. 

Your personal life

When we feel the need to put in long hours, it is not just us that pays for it. Our families join us in paying that debt. To be healthy and happy you must have time to connect with those you love. You need to support your kid on the teams he or she is on. You need private time with your special someone. This is time without worries about deadlines, paperwork, co-workers, or bosses. Your personal life should take priority over your career life. The fact is, it is the people in your life that you are working to take care of, not visa versa.


No job is worth your health or your life. Set real limitations on how much of your time you give to the company. You will be more productive and raise the quality of your work by stepping away. A well-rested, well-balanced, and happy employee turns in high-quality work. Strive to be that employee.