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‘Long working hours can lead to premature death,’ UN warns as offices prepare for post-Covid changes

The UN has warned that working more than 55 hours a week can lead to premature death from heart disease and stroke, urging companies to avoid “blurring the boundaries between home and work” as they adapt to a post-Covid-19 world.

The United Nations (UN) analysis, conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Labor Organization (ILO), found that “working 55 hours or more per week is a serious health hazard,” compared with a normal 35 to 40 hour week.

The report’s findings laid out how individuals who worked for a longer period of time had a 35% increase in the risk of having a stroke and were 17% more likely to experience heart disease.

While teleworking can provide the positive benefit of increased flexibility, it can also result in “blurring the boundaries between home and work,” causing people to “end up working longer hours.”

WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said companies need to prepare to make adjustments post-coronavirus to ensure that those still on the payroll aren’t expected to work increased hours, as companies need to “protect the health of workers.”

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“It’s time that we all – governments, employers, and employees – wake up to the fact that long working hours can lead to premature death,” said Maria Neira, the director of the WHO’s environment, climate change and health department.

In just one of the years covered in the study, 2016, the WHO and ILO estimated that 398,000 died from a stroke and 347,000 passed away from heart disease after working for 55 or more hours a week.

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