In Japan they call it “karoshi” and in China it is “guolaosi”. As yet we have not developed a term for “working yourself to death” but we are going to have to consider doing so as we steadily increase the number of hours we work on average.

The UK has the 2nd longest working hours in the developed world, just behind America, where recently a survey concluded that increased working hours increases your chances of illness and injury. They concluded that there was a 37% increase in risk for those working over 12 hours a day.

Death through overworking is not a new concept in England with regular stories about young doctors being affected by working over 100 hours straight, sometimes for over 24 hours at a time. However, it is little spoken about in industry.

Staff won’t even take their hour long lunch break, with breaks now averaging only 27 minutes, and in many cases people aren’t even leaving their work station.

The American study, published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine, highlighted that once you start increasing your hours through overtime, or just long hours working, you run an increased risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, fatigue, stress, depression, chronic infections, and diabetes which not surprisingly is on the increase. In Japan, most “karoshi” victims succumb to brain aneurisms, strokes and heart attack.

With the increase of court cases against companies for negligence due to health and safety violation, it will not be long before companies are held responsible for the damage caused to their employees, which, if at the extreme end is a fatality, could cause the company to be culpable of manslaughter.

Bosses need their people to work smarter not longer. It is easy to pass hours without being productive knowing that you may be judged by the number of hours you work, not the results, and therefore, unintentionally, set a pace to spread the work over the extended hours.

Worse is the company that expects more then a single person can achieve, without working extra hours, rather then increasing staff count for higher profit motives. You can imagine what the courts would think of that motivation.

Do we expect our minister to be available 24/7? If so what is our responsibility if the minister gets ill, depressed, or run down? We need to think about it.